Starting July 25, players from the county high schools were required to practice five days without pads, with only a helmet allowed to be worn on the field.
The acclimation period, in its first year of implementation, was created to help teams adjust to the summer heat before they began practices wearing pads.
For Woodstock coach Brent Budde, the decision to add a week of practice that specifically focused on the conditioning of the players was a smart move by the GHSA.
“I applaud them for taking this measure, as it allows coaches to start five days early,” Budde said. “Normally when the preseason begins, a lot of coaches feel pressured to get their players out there and ready for the season, so they practice longer and harder than they should. Then these kids come out of their air-conditioned houses and throw on pads, and they’re not used to the heat. With these extra five days, kids can get out here and get used to the heat while learning the fundamentals.”
One of the best aspects of the acclimation period, according to Budde, is that the five days are mandatory.
“If they don’t show up and get their five days in, they have to do it when everyone else is in pads,” Budde said. “The kids these rules were made for are those who haven’t been showing up. They’re the ones that end up dropping out.”
Along with the acclimation period comes a mandatory cool zone each high school is required to have set up on the field during practice.
Accoring to Budde, Woodstock’s cool zone consists of two misting fans and multiple ice baths, with the entire zone covered by a tent.
“If a player gets overheated, we now have ways to deal with it on the field,” Budde said. “Five years ago, we didn’t even have air conditioning in the locker rooms.”
Another safety measurement set forth by the GHSA is the wet bulb test. The test is used to estimate the effect that the air temperature and humidity can have on the players.
Depending upon the results of the test, coaches may have to limit certain aspects of a particular day’s practice — or even halt practice all together.
Though it might slow the rhythm of a practice down, Budde considers it a necessary precaution.
“(The new guidelines) are just another step in the right direction in making sure our kids are safe,” he said.
Coaches are quick to point out, however, that the six-day acclimation period isn’t the first time their players have set foot on the practice field this summer.
“We’ve been conditioning our boys all summer,” Creekview coach Al Morrell said. “We’ve had summer workouts, been to camps and participated in 7-on-7 tournaments all summer, so for us, the extra five days of practice really weren’t that different.”
Budde hosted his players for a camp at the school earlier this summer.
“The boys slept in the school and ate in the cafeteria, and we made sure that they were out there every morning at 7,” he said. “There was no excuse for not waking up because they slept through their alarm clock. That week, I was their alarm clock.”
Though pleased with his team’s summer preparations, Cherokee coach Josh Shaw is ready for full-contact practices to begin.
“We’ve done about as much as we possibly could this summer,” said Shaw, who had his team complete 40 40-yard dashes Tuesday to end their summer workout. “We’ve been out practicing seven of the last eight weeks. If we weren’t at a camp, we were here five days a week. We’re just ready to get into pads.”