Area high school football teams play smart to beat heat

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August 2, 2006

Heat related injuries are a major concern for parents and school officials.

Now football coaches here at home are taking precautions to keep their players safe in the summer heat.

The Hephzibah High School Rebels motto is "Work hard", but in extreme heat they also have to work smart.

Coach John Bowen is holding morning practices from 9 until 11 to beat the heat.

"The kids will work against themselves, because they are trying to impress and they get in trouble," he says.

And drinking plenty of fluids before, during, and after practice is a recommendation.

"We just make sure everybody stays hydrated, everybody gets water," says quarterback Chris White. "The coaches help us with that."

It's a big responsibility, but Coach Bowen says it all boils down to making sure all of his players are safe.

A Rockdale County football player collapsed and died after practice on August 1.

"It's not like the olden days when you practice for two hours without water," Coach Bowen says. "We let them get water at their own pace, whenever they want it."

While the Rebels are practicing in t-shirts and shorts this week, they'll be fully padded up next week, and that's when they can expect the body temperature to rise even more.

"When you got a shirt underneath and the pads on top and then a practice jersey, it's going to get hot," says linebacker T.J. Lynch.

"Once those pads go on, not to mention the extra weight, but the tightness of letting the body breathe and everything," says Coach Bowen.

The Richmond County Board of Education rates outdoor activities by categories, with 5 being the highest.

At Category 5, the central office orders schools to shut down all outdoor activities and substitute indoor activities.