The Georgia High School Association pushed the start of practice back two weeks this year in an attempt to miss some of the hottest parts of the summer. But with a heat wave gripping much of the state, teams began practice last week during some of the hottest temperatures of the year.
Thomas Guinn is only a freshman at Ringgold high school. But the fullback/defensive end said he got broken in very quick.
The first couple of days we came out here it was just scorching, he said. The humidity was up, and it was crazy.
But his motto - like most football coaches and players - is no pain, no gain.
The puking and sweating during practice is just football. he said.
But football can be dangerous when teams are preparing in the current weather conditions.
A cruel reminder of what can happen in the extreme heat occurred two weeks ago in Rockdale County.
Tyler Davis, a 15 year-old lineman at Rockdale County High School, collapsed after a voluntary workout at the school. He was rushed to a hospital where he died early the following morning. The county coroner determined the cause of death was a heatstroke.
Davis death was another in what has become an alarming number of heat-related tragedies all over the country in recent years.
We really feel for all those kids down there in Rockdale County, but especially for the coaches, Gordon Lee head coach Kevin McElhaney said.
To lose a kid on your watch would just be unbearable and devastating.
Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe head Coach Mark Davis said every time another heat-related tragedy occurs its a cold hard reminder it could always happen on his field.
It always scares me, he said. Its always in the back of my mind. But you just have to prepare the kids in the summer, watch them closely and tell them all the right things to do.
All the local coaches are trying to do the right thing to protect their athletes.
Ridgeland head Coach Mark Mariakis said that while his players have worked all summer to get used to the heat, the situation must still be closely monitored every minute the team is on the field.
The kids and their safety have always been our No. 1 concern, Mariakis said. We feel like since weve been going three or four days a week all summer long our kids are as used to the heat as they can be. Were still real careful.
Ringgold head Coach Sean Gray said he constantly preaches the importance of hydrating before practice.
Most of our players are carrying around 20 ounce bottles of water all day to drink at school and refilling in the water fountains, he said. The teachers are letting them take it into class and drink when they want.
Gray said his players also have several 10 minute breaks during practice and his coaches closely monitor the color of the athletes faces as a precaution.
Were always looking to see if they look dehydrated or if anyone looks pale, he said.
Athletic trainers play a big role in keeping the players healthy.
Each team has a designated trainer that supervises all games and practices.
Steve Burdette, who is employed by Hutchison Medical Center, has been working with Ridgeland High School athletes for more than over 10 years. He says some of the best ways to prevent heat-related problems start before players even step on the field.
Prevention is not something you can do just by taking extra breaks at practice, he said. The diet is a big part of it too. They need to stay away from fast food and junk food in the summer and load up on fruits and vegetables.
Its even a good idea to add a little salt to the diet until they can get acclimatized to their surroundings.
Michelle Mynor, who is also employed by Hutchison Medical Center, is the trainer at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. She said she reinforces the same type of regime at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe. She is in her fifth year as the trainer for the Warriors.
I just tell the kids to drink lots of fluids, lay off the carbonated beverages and try to eat right, she said. And so far weve not had any major problems.
Davis reportedly was over six foot tall and weighted near the 300-pound mark when he died, but Burdette pointed out that heatstroke could happen to anyone.
The kids with a bigger body mass index are more at risk, he said. But players of any body type are at risk, especially if they are not in the shape they need to be.
LaFayette head coach Tommy Welch said he learned the value of a proper diet while spending several years coaching in the heat of some scorching South Georgia summers.
A big thing is keeping the players fed, Welch said. Thats one of the things the administration here has really helped out with during camp. If we practice twice, we feed them once. If we practice three times, we feed them twice, plus all the fruit that they can eat before we ever go out. The food is really as important as the water.
Welch added that communication and common sense also helps in preventing problems before they start.
You just have to be smart, he said. If its 100 degrees out here, were not going to do any conditioning.
Weather forecasters are predicting another hot week in the Northwest Georgia region