Beating the heat is always a hot topic at the start of football practice and this year is certainly no exception.
With the recent deaths of two high school athletes, it's served as a grim reminder of how dangerous practicing in extreme conditions can be if proper precautions aren't taken.
With Thursday temperatures in Athens hovering around 100 degrees, Georgia football coach Mark Richt and his staff were certainly mindful of the dangers prior to the Bulldogs taking to the field for their first workout in preparation for the 2011 opener against Boise State.
"It's certainly smokin' hot out there right now. Iım just thankful we've now got real grass out there that we can practice on and there's actually a breeze up top there," Richt said. "So I think that's gonna help us. There are some other things we'll be doing to pay attention to the heat."
Some measures have already take place.
Following Friday afternoon's practice that gets underway at 4:20, the Bulldogs will spend the next eight days practicing in the morning, not only to try and beat the heat but to avoid any afternoon thundershowers that typically occur this time of the year.
"Normally the thunderstorms happen in the afternoon, and if it happens in the middle of a practice, itıs just hard to recover, or try to re-schedule a practice in the middle of the night. So, we're going to practice in the morning because of the weather patterns and also because itıs going to be 10 to 15 degrees cooler," Richt said. "Sometimes we concern ourselves with not practicing in the heat. You might play a game in the heat, but we also know that once school begins, we HAVE to practice in the afternoon, so weıll have two weeks of practicing in the afternoon before Game 1. And we all know that Game 1 is in the Dome, so that wonıt be much of a factor. Weıll play Game 2 at 4:30, so we think three weeks will be enough time to practice in the afternoon."
Hearing about the deaths of the two young football players puts everything in perspective for linebacker Christian Robinson.
"It reminds you that you're human, just realizing if you're having issues - some guys have issues that the staff is aware of - to just know the difference from hurting and being tired and actually having an issue," Robinson said. "You've got to be careful but at the same time you've got to work. It's sad to hear about those people but hopefully you can be aware of something like that before it happens."
Coaches and the Georgia training staff put the players through a battery of tests Wednesday to ensure their overall health before practice began.
"Wednesday morning we did a test of guys running. Overall, we did very well there. We're still dealing with summer school classes today and tomorrow with final exams. We've actually had to get 'em up at 6 o'clock in the morning and spend a little time with them," Richt said. "I think this is the 2nd time this has happened in the 11 years I've been at Georgia, where we've had to try and work around final exams of summer school, and still try and get your acclimation days in at the same time. Itıs been a little bit tough to manage, but we've worked really well with our academic advisers."
NCAA rules require that teams practice for two days in shorts and helmets and two days in shells before donning the full pads which the team will do Monday morning before holding the first scrimmage on Wednesday.
"We always have water breaks in the middle of practice, but we're adding another couple of breaks and get them under some shade, get them where they can hydrate. The other thing is if the kids are in a drill and let's say there are five guys in a drill, and each guy is taking his turn doing the drill. If the first guy gets his rep in and he's waiting in the back of the line for another minute or so, we have student trainers right there with water, PowerAde all day long."
Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports
and he can be reached via email at [email protected]