• 66°

Tom Goetz: Heat, humidity await football players Monday

Step outside your air-conditioned building and the firstimpression is a sauna blast from all sides. Open your car door anda fiery explosion of heat smacks you in the face. Most folks willgasp, do an about-face, groan, wimper and seek a cool room.

“Golly, gee, it’s hot outside.”

Come Monday morning, July 26, thousands of determinedMississippi teenagers will don their football helmets and plungeinto the official, first day of preseason practice. We admire theircourage, strength and determination.

Most of these young gladiators have been diligently working outduring the last two months. They have lifted weights, participatedin sweat-soaked agility drills, gutted out wind sprints and run upand down stadium steps as coaches growled encouragement.

Such is the price a youngster pays for Friday night glory. Manyof the area schools approached the summertime workouts with comfortin mind. The players worked out at 6 a.m. from one to two hours,usually four days a week. Several of them held summer jobs,too.

Monday, July 26, is the earliest preseason practice startingdate for Mississippi High School Activities Association members.Almost 40 years ago, Aug. 15th was the starting date for preseasondrills.

The Mississippi Association of Independent Schools also kicksoff preseason practice Monday, following a similar regimen. Theplayers are allowed three days of practice in helmets, shorts andT-shirts before putting on shoulder pads. After the fifth day, theycan don full equipment.

Full equipment is when the heat factor jumps several degrees.It’s hot. Perspiration falls like rain from the sweat-soaked youngmen. For a change, the smaller player has the advantage. Biglinemen are more affected by the heat and humidity.

In these modern times, water is generously supplied to players.In the so-called good old days, coaches would run the playersragged before granting them a cup of water. Thank goodness, timeshave changed for the better.

Larry Thomas, MHSAA Director of Officials, recognizes thecritical importance of keeping players hydrated before, during andafter practice. Conditioning is a key and conditioning comes priorto the preseason practice routine.

The Aug. 20th MHSAA Classic Game corresponds with theseason-opener for MAIS members like Brookhaven Academy, McCombParklane Academy and Copiah Academy at Gallman. Eager coachesanxious to get in some early live scrimmages against other teamscan participate in a jamboree Aug. 13.

“When you play on the 13th, you have to go out and get them inshape and used to the heat,” said Thomas. “You have to get themused to hitting.”

Thomas said the Mississippi Sports Medicine group stressed theimportance of summer workouts prior to preseason practice. “Theysuggested they (players) have three weeks of practice instead oftwo before that first jamboree.”

Thomas said the MHSAA has been stressing the importance ofkeeping players hydrated. “We have been putting out informationabout how to deal with heat and humidity. It’s important to havewater available.”

High school coaches have a major responsibility. “Heat-relatedinjuries are something the coaches can control,” said Thomas.”Especially, as hot as it is, now.”

As the shift officer at the NYPD would say, “Be careful outthere.”

About 48 years ago, yours truly was a victim of heatprostration. A sprained ankle during the first week of preseasondrills had put me on the sidelines for about a week. The14-year-old sophomore had missed about five days ofconditioning.

As Wisconsin summers go, an 85-degree day was awful, even in midAugust. The heat and humidity hit me like a pile of bricks when Iresumed practice. Players didn’t get water breaks in the old days.Coaches believed in building mental and physical toughness.

We kept chugging along, a week behind my teammates in theconditioning process. As practice continued, my exhaustion led tocollapse. “Get up, Goetz, get up!”

Believe it or not, there was little concern from the coaches.Thankfully, I lived to share the moment. A doctor checked me outlater that afternoon and my blood pressure was dangerously low.

The good side. Players actually got water breaks the rest ofpreseason practice.

Unfortunately, there were no regimented summer workout routinesback then to prepare the players for practice.

Back to the future, Thomas said, “Most of the players areworking out during the summer. They can basically do anything inpractice without putting on pads. Coaches do a good job of gettingthem in shape.”

Thank God for concerned coaches.

 

Write to sports editor Tom Goetz, c/o The DAILY LEADER, P.O. BOX551, Brookhaven, MS 39602 or e-mail sports@dailyleader.com