Just hearing the name August instantly zips the brain to recalling the sensation of oppressive heat and sticky humidity.
August also harbors the start of preseason football camps across Pennsylvania.
While this year’s edition of August has been relatively mild in terms of heat and humidity, there are still concerns for heat-related illnesses across the nation for athletes at the tot level all the way to the professional ranks.
In the spring, the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association (PIAA) issued guidelines for its member schools to follow to help student-athletes deal with the sometimes-extreme conditions served up during the early portions of football season.
Schools had the option of beginning the three-day heat acclimization exercises on Monday or this past Wednesday. PIAA guidelines indicated that athletes were to be in helmets, shoulder pads and shorts during the first two days with full pads on the third.
Schools choosing to do so last week were not permitted to engage in contact drills, even during the full-pad practice, but they could include contact into their practices on Monday.
So what’s a school to do during those three days?
“We combined our speed camp with helmets and pads on for an hour and 15 minutes,” Ligonier Valley coach Roger Beitel said. “We fulfilled the requirement for a 3-hour minimum for the extra hour and 45 minutes. What we basically did is that we conducted mini-practices ... We got very creative on how we were going to fulfill the 3-hour minimum requirement.”
That also allowed the Rams – District 5-6 Class AA semifinalists in 2012 – to run full-contact drills on Monday. Though for Beitel, a little luster of what Monday normally signifies was lost.
“I’ve been around for a long time,” Beitel noted. “There’s something abut that first Monday that’s so exciting because of the first practice. The heat acclimation sort of took that away
On the flip side, schools which waited until this week to begin heat acclimization cannot go full-contact until Thursday at the earliest. Richland, a PIAA Class AA semifinalist last season, was one of those schools selecting Monday as the jumping-off point for the state-mandated heat acclimation.
“The PIAA didn’t pass this policy until May, most of our kids weren’t even going to be available with vacations,” Richland coach Brandon Bailey said. “Had we had the practice last week we would have had a split squad (Monday). We were going to abide by the PIAA. We won’t get in full gear until Wednesday.”
Then again, Bailey and his staff are able to keep the Rams interested and moving to open camp.
“You could get into fundamental things without blocking and tackling, which are big parts of the game,” Bailey said. “But so much of football is conditioning and the mental aspect. Our coaches do a great job of preparing the kids and getting their heads into the game. We worked on a lot of walkthrough type things.
“We’ve always operated this way, the reality is that if you have too much contact you’ll have a bunch of injuries.”
Shawn Curtis is a sports writer for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/@shawncurtis430.