With the temperatures expected to be in the mid-90s this week, football practices over the next five days may be forced to be conducted differently.
Starting when a measurement instrument called the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature, which measures the combination of temperature and humidity, hits 87 degrees, players are only allowed to wear helmets and shoulder pads and the maximum practice time allowed is two hours. When the reading reaches 90, they can only be outside for an hour with no equipment, and there are no conditioning exercises.
Once the reading hits 92 or above, no outdoor practices are allowed. This week the heat index — the combination of temperature and relative humidity is expected to be as high as 106.
Dealing with the stifling preseason temperatures is nothing new to local coaches.
That includes first-year Campbell coach Howie DeCristofaro, who originally came from Central Florida where his players were used to working out in these stifling conditions.
“If we were in Florida right now, it would be November before we could practice,” DeCristofaro said. “When I was at New Smyrna Beach, I watched them practice in a heat index of 101 and no one was complaining about it.”
Once DeCristofaro relocated to the metro-Atlanta area 12 years ago and eventually became the coach at Milton, he adjusted to having to alter his preseason practice schedule whenever the wet bulb temperatures got too high.
If Campbell is prohibited to practice outside after school this week, he said one option would be to work out in one of the school’s gyms that is now covered with turf. There, the Spartans can practice normally with the exception of having 7-on-7 passing drills.
Other secondary options were mentioned by coaches if unable to conduct practices outdoors after school. Those options include studying film, running pre-dawn practices, having practices in the gymnasium if they are guaranteed the space. Or they may choose to do football activities indoors and head outdoors later in the afternoon if it cools off.
“It does make for a challenging situation,” North Cobb Christian coach Mark Hollars said. “At this point, you’ve had a lot of hot days, and in some ways, a little bit of heat before Week 1 is good. You don’t want Week 1 to be your really tough week and that puts kids in a tough spot.”
He said also preaches the responsibility of his players hydrating constantly and eating properly in order to make it through the summer months.
But like every other team, the North Cobb Christian training staff keeps a constant eye on the wet bulb. Should the temperatures get too high, the team will either take off the pads or go inside, depending on what the thermometer reads.
“It’s like lightning, when you see lightning from a distance you have to go inside,” Hollars said. “Only this week, you’re dealing with the heat.”
One team that will likely be able to avoid the worst of the heat is Kennesaw State. The Owls have another week before classes start and their practices are in the morning, but coach Brian Bohannon said that the heat at practice isn’t the only thing to monitor.
He said the university trainers, conditioning coaches and nutritionists advise players to make sure they remain hydrated at all times. Many of the players can be seen waling around the facility and campus with water bottles.
The GHSA offers heat tips on its website that say athletes should not lose more than 2 percent body weight at any practice. More than that, they may not be properly hydrated. During practice, it recommends flavored, cold, lightly salted sports drinks like Gatorade or Powerade are important because sodium helps maintain the additional craving to drink and it helps retain the fluid being consumed.
Following practice it is suggested that athletes consume 20 to 24 ounces of fluid for every pound that was lost.
In addition, Bohannon and the GHSA agree hydration is only one part of dealing with the heat. Proper rest for recovery — six to eight hours of sleep — and the proper diet, will help each athlete remain in the proper condition.
“We’re lucky right now,” Bohannon said. “We’re not in class yet and we’re feeding them four times a day — three meals and a snack. Our trainers and staff do a great job monitoring what the players do.”
The trainers for the high school teams will play a key role in making sure everyone is protected, but the coaches are making the final decisions based on common sense.
At Mount Paran Christian, if the heat is too much, coach Mitch Jordan said they will likely have study hall and team meetings after school, and not have practice until the sun goes down.
Allatoona coach Gary Varner said his plan is based on how long the heat lasts. If it only lasts a day or two, the Buccaneers will likely start workouts inside and practice outdoors later if the temperature permits. If the scorching temperatures last for an extended period of time, he said he will consider practicing during the early morning hours.
“You can do a study hall or film and then go out at 5:30 p.m. or 6 if there is a (temperature) difference,” Varner said. “We will have to play it by ear.”
MDJ sports editor John Bednarowski contributed to this report.