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New Heat Rules Throwing off H.S. Football Practice
A new heat acclimatization policy is forcing Illinois high school football teams to adjust their practice schedules.
The policy, instituted this spring by the Illinois High School Association, limits what equipment players can use and how long they can practice over a two-week acclimatization calendar. Each player must complete every day of the calendar, beginning whenever they start practice. The official start of football practice yesterday marked the beginning of heat acclimatization for most players.
Practices must be kept under three hours every day for the first five practice days. After two hours of recovery they can do an hour of play walk-throughs. Full pads and five hours worth of practice time don't come until the sixth day of practice - Tuesday on the I.H.S.A.'s calendar.
For the Rochester Rockets, that would mean only one day of permitted two-a-day practices before they start school on Wednesday.
"You really can't have an effective practice plan unless you plan on keeping the kids until 10 or 11 o'clock at night," said head coach Derek Leonard, "which nobody wants to do, and the coaches don't want to do."
The remainder of the heat calendar, which lasts until Aug. 27, also limits total practice time for each day.
Still, coach Leonard says he's not worried about his three-time championship team.
"Almost from tomorrow, it's two weeks until our first game," Leonard said. "And so, the preparation time on the field does get taken down, and that hurts a little bit. But it's not terrible though. You know, it's not killing us."
I.H.S.A. officials say the policy is meant to reduce the risk of heat related injuries, and it seems to be working for Rochester.
"Last year there were a lot of people that were dehydrated, and a lot of people that were sitting out," said running back and linebacker, Evan Sembell. "Then this year, everyone seems to be pretty cool."
So far, the weather hasn't even approached 80 degrees. But odds are, that won't last.
"And I think there should be a heat part," Leonard said. "I mean, it is so nice right now. I mean, honestly, three hours is pretty easy for all of us."
And heat policy or not, the players are still determined to win.
"Like on the weekends and stuff we get together, and we do things together," said safety and outside linebacker Tyler Mazzini. "So, I think we're making up for it there. And everyone works hard. So I think it's all about what you put into it."