The news late this past week that the PIAA Board of Directors approved a three-day heat acclimatization program for football teams starting with the 2013 season was met by little more than a collective shrug among area football coaches.
Will be even better when we get to the day where it’s met with a laugh, which isn’t far off.
The three-day program says, essentially, that there must be a structured process in place for getting players used to the heat in summer camp: two days in shoulder pads and helmets without contact, one day with full pads and contact.
Heat acclimatization can take place either the week prior to the start of official practice, or coaches can spend the first three days of practice completing this program.
“It’s not going to change what we do,” Washington High School coach Mike Bosnic said. “We’ve already been taking steps to acclimate them to heat and pads.”
It wasn’t that long ago – I’m 29 and played high school football from 1998-2001 – that the start of high school football camp meant the start of three-a-day practices, headaches, physically peeling yourself off the ground to jump into soggy equipment for another practice and running full bore into a 95-degree day, if the weather felt like making your life miserable.
Do I think a three-day process provides what it takes to acclimate yourself to the heat, carrying around a helmet or managing the drain that wearing pads causes? No. At least not entirely. But the fact that the implementation of this rule doesn’t move the needle when it comes to coaches’ reaction is a very good thing.
“It makes sense,” Peters Township’s Rich Piccinini said. “I think a lot of schools do enough conditioning in the summer that the three-day program should be a smooth transition. I know it should be with us.”
McGuffey’s Ed Dalton has long been one of the area’s more progressive coaches, a regular on Twitter and someone who gets so excited about Hudl, the new video-sharing software for coaches, you’d think he owned stock in the company.
When I called Dalton to talk about the new rule, he thought it was, in a word, pointless.
Speed camps, linemen challenges and seven-on-sevens are all part of Dalton’s offseason routine at McGuffey. So, too, is having his quarterbacks get used to throwing in shoulder pads, an example of a rule the PIAA passed in May 2010 that allows players to wear helmets and shoulder pads during optional, offseason workouts.
Dalton asked his coaches to take an online course on heat management and, like many schools, worked with school administrators to develop an emergency plan should an incident occur, which is something the new rule mandates.
“By the time camp starts, we’ve already done our heat acclimatization,” Dalton said. “I’ve always believed that sports can be like electives in school; if a kid signs up, he or she is going to do whatever it takes to train and do it right. Our kids are already heat acclimated.”
For a third time: good.
Jefferson-Morgan’s Liam Ryan admitted that he had yet to talk with his school’s athletic director, Scot Moore, but in learning about the new rule, Ryan didn’t do much more than shrug his shoulders.
“From what I have read, it doesn’t seem like much of a change,” Ryan said. “We’ve been weighing our offensive linemen before and after each practice to monitor dehydration. And our boosters provide healthy meals that include foods and drinks that promote hydration.”
So why, then, make a rule? Well, because it’s Pennsylvania, and you know how much we love our rules. And also because this theoretically has to apply to someone, right?
“I think most schools have been responsible with this, but I guess it’s best to put on paper,” Ryan continued. “I think everyone was doing some kind of conditioning practices prior to camp anyway. I guess it just puts more emphasis on those practices.”
Jason Mackey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org