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Heat a concern for local coaches too
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Every time you turn around at a football practice these days, someone is drinking water.
And with the heat index topping 100 more often than not at this time of year, that's a good thing.
"We try to keep them hydrated all day at school, not just at practice," said Mark Wilson, Bryan County High School football coach and athletic director. "Football is important, but the kids and their safety is more important."
At Richmond Hill High School, water breaks aren't what they used to be.
"Technically we don't have water breaks anymore, we just have unlimited water at all times," Richmond Hill High School football coach Lyman Guy said.
The reason is simple. Staying hydrated is probably the easiest and best defense against heat injuries -- which have reportedly claimed the lives of two high school football players in Georgia already this year.
But it's not the only defense. Both Wilson and Guy said they also follow Bryan County School Board policy which spells out how much can be done depending on the heat index.
Both schools also have full-time athletic trainers on board and at practices.
"We try to be as careful as we can about it," Wilson said. "We may be a little bit behind (in conditioning) at the scrimmage or that first game, but we should be OK."
Guy holds full contact practices later in the day and doesn't require his players have helmets on when they're not involved in a drill.
"The only thing we ask is that they're ready to go when it's their turn to come on the field," he said.
Both coaches say conditioning and acclimation helps kids better stand the heat and point out that many of their players have spent much of the offseason conditioning. But they also note that many kids these days are less acclimated to the heat than they used to be because fewer spend time outside.
In the meantime, the Georgia High School Association has just commissioned a study on heat-related illnesses, the Associated Press reported Thursday. But Guy already has solution to the problem.
"Start the season in September," he said. "I think it's good for the kids and for the bottom line, which is their safety."

Jeff Whitten covers sports for the Bryan County News.


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