TAMPA, Fla. - The Jefferson High Dragons took to the field for the first day of fall football practice Monday. A first step they hope leads them to their second state title in three seasons.
"To hear the whistles blowing and guys having a great time for another football season definitely brings that joy," said Jeremy Earle, the Dragons' head coach.
But with that joy comes risk from the scorching August heat in Florida. As a result, the Florida High School Athletic Association recently adopted new heat-related policies aimed at keeping the student athletes safe and competitive.
"We all realize that it benefits us. And as football coaches, you'd be crazy to not want to have your athletes at a performance level that's as high as it can get," Earle explained.
The new FHSAA policy is very specific. For every thirty minutes of practice, a minimum of five minutes must be provided for hydration and rest. All players must have unrestricted access to water at all times; and a player can never be denied water if they request it.
Long gone are the days when a football player's toughness is judged just on whether he takes a water break or not.
Earle recalled the past that used to have a far different approach.
"I hear horror stories of back in the day when my father was playing. He tells me his coaches never gave them water, that they would think they were soft and give them salt tablets. Times have definitely changed when it comes to that," said Earle.
The policy also limits weekly practice time to eighteen hours during the first two weeks to allow the student athletes to adapt to conditions.
And for these players, getting through the dog days of August could pave the way to memories that will last a lifetime.
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