Fall football practices are in full swing but Fall hasn’t arrived just yet. July and August are the hottest months of the year for the players in Rockdale and Newton County so coaches and trainers work together to monitor hydration in order to protect players from heat-related issues such as heat stroke.
Most football practices are on a clock, each school gives players a certain amount of time to work on an individual or team skill/activity. Coaches decide how long those periods last, and based on the wet-bulb temperature reading and the heat index provided by the trainer, coaches will choose whether to give more breaks for water.
Alcovy coach Kirk Hoffman uses four minute periods – the shortest period time amongst the coaches in the two bordering countries – usually resulting in his players getting water every 15 minutes on a normal day. However, when it’s really hot Hoffman will give his players a water break every 10 minutes based on the reading he gets from his athletic trainer.
The athletic trainer usually gives Hoffman a reading of the temperature and how they should operate at around 3:00 p.m. School gets out at 3:15 and Hoffman will get another reading at 3:30. From there Hoffman will decide which of the two practice schedules he’ll use that day.
Hoffman also splits up the water breaks in between the kids. He says he has around 100 kids out there so he sends about 50 at a time to get water, that way nobody misses out on a chance to hydrate themselves.
Coaches couldn’t do it without their trainers, who keep them aware of the wet-bulb temperature and state guidelines.
“Our athletic [trainer] sends out a protocol everyday of how we need to handle it and we just gotta follow her lead and just making sure that we take extra water breaks encouraging kids to make sure that they stay hydrated and even start hydration before they get to practice,” John Starr, Salem head football coach, said.
Rockdale County public schools athletic trainer/coordinator Kechia Rowles sends out a protocol each day around 2:45 detailing what stage they are in, what degree it is and what the recommendations are. Heritage head football coach Wendell Early says they follow the protocol to the letter and then some.
“We water our guys all the time. They get water whenever they want. We have a great crew of young ladies that handle our hydration. They run water bottles to kids all day long,” Early said. “They drink as much as they want whenever they want, we don’t restrict the water or take a water break here and there and not let them get water. They drink as much as they want to whenever they want to.”
“It used to be where you practiced for three hours and got two or three water breaks and that was it, but we don’t do that. Typically the rule is: get water whenever you want water, just don’t miss your reps,” Early said laughing.
Early and the Patriots ran a lot this summer in the heat, so much that he says he didn’t even know Tuesday was the “hottest day of the year.”
“It just felt like another day to us,” Early laughed. “We went out and did our thing, nobody complained. We really don’t notice because we get as much water whenever we want it. The heat doesn’t really affect us, we water them like some little flowers.”
Eastside head coach Troy Hoff says it’s all about staying smart about your periods. He’s aware of how long they can go without having a break, and water is available all the time.
“When we’re within the guidelines then it’s about being smart,” Hoff said. “Water’s available all the time. We force ‘em to water up, we make them hydrate. That’s probably the most important thing.”
Hoff will give his team an extended break if they start working in a heavy session so they can water up.
At Eastside, each period lasts about 15 minutes. The players get breaks in between periods. The breaks last a minimum of four minutes depending on the wet-bulb reading.
If you visit a practice, you’ll probably notice a piece of paper the coach’s hold and that is usually where they keep their period schedule and the state guidelines for high school practices, and every coach is sticking to it.