Lakeside coach Jarrett Troxler was awake by 5 a.m., ready to go.
Hephzibah’s John Bowen was so thrilled, he sent out text messages wishing a few of his fellow coaches a happy football day.
Football is here; the season isn’t far behind.
“I couldn’t sleep last night. I’m pumped up,” Troxler said. “It’s the smell of the grass and the sound of the band practicing. It gets the juices flowing.”
Wednesday marked the first day of practice for Georgia High School Association-member schools, and some started in the morning to get in a couple hours before the heat increased.
This year, to better deal with heat-related dangers, the GHSA required its member schools to use an instrument that measures Wet Bulb Globe Temperature. WBGT is a composite temperature that estimates the effect temperature, humidity, wind and solar radiation can have on the body.
Depending on the reading, different steps must be taken regarding activities and rest.
By 10 a.m., when Bowen pulled out his instrument from his pocket, it read at about 76. If the number is less than 80 – the lowest rating – practices need at least three rest breaks each hour. Each break must last at least three minutes. But if the instrument shows a temperature of 92.1 or higher, there can be no outdoor practice or exercise.
The introduction of Wet Bulb Globe Temperature use came in response to heat-related deaths and illnesses in recent years.
“I don’t know how we could live with ourselves if it happened here,” Richmond Academy coach Chris Hughes said.
After Hephzibah finished its first day, Bowen stood in front of his team and instructed his players to be safe. He told them if they came to practice thirsty, it’s too late. Instead, he wants his team to hydrate all day and all through the night.
Teams have set up cooling zones to help players recuperate during rest periods. At Lakeside, this area was shaded and included immersion tubs.
Player safety continues to be stressed by local coaches, but the concern hasn’t dampened the building excitement for the upcoming season.
“It’s good to be back,” Bowen said.