Big Bend football football coaches have had to adjust their practice schedules in accordance with new FHSAA guidelines aimed at reducing heat-related illnesses.
Yet, the anticipation surrounding the start of practice hasn’t changed.
“We are excited about the new season and about the group of kids we have,” fourth-year Lincoln coach Yusuf Shakir said.
“This will be my first group of (seniors) that we’ve had since their freshman seasons, so we will be able to watch them go through and develop.”
High school football teams across the state take to the field for their first workouts on Monday. And, keeping with tradition, Lincoln and Chiles will open drills at 12:01 a.m. Monday with their versions of Midnight Madness.
For most teams, the regular season starts on Friday, Aug. 31. Jamborees and Kickoff Classics are scheduled a week earlier.
The Chiles Timberwolves are determined to build on momentum generated during spring and summer drills. More than 90 players participated in spring practice, and second-year coach Mike Lassiter likes the team’s focus.
“We are hoping to build some depth because I think that was our nemesis in some games last year,” Lassiter said.
“We are excited. We have guys who are committed. And that’s what we want. We want players who are sold out for our program and they stay for four years and graduate as Timberwolves.”
All schools, of course, must abide by new FHSAA rules regarding preseason practices. The rules are designed to allow teams to acclimate to the state’s warm climate slowly at the start of each season.
Teams can’t practice more than once a day during the first week of practice. Plus, weekly practice time can’t exceed 18 hours, and practice can’t last longer than 3½ hours on any day.
In the second week of practice, teams can practice twice in one day but can only practice once the following day.
Total practice time when teams practice twice cannot exceed five hours.
The rule also specifies that weight training and conditioning drills count as practices during the first two weeks.
Veteran FAMU coach Ira Reynolds stressed that teams must take advantage of the time allotted. The guidleines are also utilized by college teams.
“What we did in the past was get the butter from the duck in the morning, and the afternoons were focused on teaching — now we lost that,” Reynolds said. “But we have to somehow get it all in.”
Madison County coach Mike Coe said the new guidelines have eliminated his program’s annual weekend camp prior to the start of practice. But Coe and his peers also embrace policies that help protect players.
The first day of contact for teams is Thursday.
“We try to practice fast and furious,” Coe said. “We’ve always been proactive when it comes to breaks and water stations. You can’t get upset about rules that are trying to help kids.”
Players who do not start practice on the first day must still follow the heat acclimatization schedule their first two weeks.
The new guidelines follow recommendations of the National Federation of High School Association’s sports medicine advisory committee and the National Athletic Trainers’ Association’s secondary school committee.
The FHSAA also passed a rule requiring all students and their legal guardians to sign papers informing them on the risks of concussions and heat-related illnesses before participating in a sport.