Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Heat an issue on football field

The severity of the heat for the start of football practice in the Carolinas is a surprise even for those who grew up here.

Players and coaches are accustomed to practicing in 90-degree weather. But when the temperatures climb into the high 90s and are expected to flirt with 100, practice becomes a chore.

“That’s just something that’s going to make us stronger in the end. . . . I can feel myself getting in better shape working in it,” N.C. State quarterback Daniel Evans said bravely.

Coach Tom O’Brien said N.C. State has averaged about one player a day who has been physically unable to finish practice because of the heat. He said that’s not bad when you consider there are more than 100 players on the field.

The heat puts coaches in an unusual spot. They want to see who is tough enough to succeed in the uncomfortable conditions and prepare for games that might be held on hot afternoons.
They also don’t want to burn out their players before the season begins. East Carolina coach Skip Holtz is beginning practice in the middle of the afternoon because the Pirates open in a noon game Sept. 1 at Virginia Tech. But he is monitoring the heat’s effect on his players and will adjust accordingly.

“We want to make sure we have somebody to play with when we go up to Virginia Tech,” Holtz said.

The “acclimatization period” created by the NCAA in 2003 helps protect players from the heat by outlawing two-a-days for the first five days of the preseason. Practices start with no pads, then add shoulder pads and advance to full contact by the fifth day.

Even after the acclimatization period ends, two-a-days on consecutive days are prohibited.
Bear Bryant might have frowned upon these precautions because they can prevent a coach from building toughness. But North Carolina coach Butch Davis said he’s been sensitive to the effects of heat on players for more than 10 years, dating back past his tenure with the Miami Hurricanes to his time with the Dallas Cowboys.

After spending his entire coaching career in the South, Davis remembered trying to figure out what to do as coach of the Cleveland Browns, when he experienced temperatures in the 70s.
“That was more of an adjustment than, how are you going to deal with 92 degrees,” Davis said.
But as the mercury climbs in the Carolinas, temperatures in the 70s would sound good to a lot of sweaty football players.

– Ken Tysiac