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Coaches ready for changes in fall practice schedule
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Important dates

Today: Five-day conditioning period begins

Aug. 1: Practice with full pads begin; two-a-day practices begin with stipulations

Aug. 24: First weekend of regular-season games

For the better part of two months, football coaches around the area have been able to execute similar structures to their offseason programs.

Most of them involve about three hours, divided into an hour each of weight lifting, agility drills and on-field football activities.

For the next five days, however, coaches will have to scale back as they ease into the final weeks of practice before seasons begin in late August.

Beginning this year, the Georgia High School Association will regulate preseason practice time for schools around the state. While it has had a list of guidelines in the past, this year will be the first in which its regulations have been made mandatory.

“There’s a different set of guidelines that are now mandatory,” said Gainesville coach Bruce Miller, whose Red Elephants have been practicing three days each week over the summer. “I think it just makes everybody understand that this time of the summer, heat is a factor. We just have to make sure we’re being smart and making sure the kids are taken care of.”

What that means, in terms of the GHSA regulations, is a few changes to the practice schedule.

For five days, beginning today, all athletes must go through a mandatory five-day conditioning program in which practices last no longer than two hours. During those two hours, players will not wear more than shorts, a helmet, a mouthpiece and shoes.

Then, on Aug. 1, teams may practice in full pads and participate in two-a-days. Those two-a-days are allowed under the following stipulations: No single session may last longer than three hours; the total amount of time in the two practices can’t exceed five hours; there must be at least a three-hour time of rest between sessions; and there may not be consecutive days of two-a-day practices.

Miller said that, with that schedule, it will be harder for teams to structure two-a-days into their schedule. He added, however, that Gainesville would not participate in two-a-day practices anyway.

“The biggest thing is that when you go out, it’ll either have to be early in the morning or late in the evening,” he said. “You just can’t go out at 4 o’clock unless it’s an unusual day. You have to make a decision to go out either early or late, and it eliminates a lot of two-a-days.

“We won’t be doing any two-a-days, though. We just want to get people into the practice routine, get them used to the schedule. Instead of going three days a week, we’ll be going five.”

Coaches agree that the biggest change to the preseason practice schedule is the five days of mandatory conditioning.

“The biggest change is the mandatory conditioning before they put pads on,” Chestatee coach Stan Luttrell said. “We have to have accurate attendance records for everyone present, which we do anyway, but now it’s mandatory. We have to verify that they’ve done five days of conditioning before August.”

North Hall coach Bob Christmas said that the difficulty is fitting in the different facets of practice given the shorter allotment of time.

“Any time on the field or conditioning is included in those two hours,” he said, “including time in the weight room. So, if you want to continue to lift over these next five days and it takes you an hour, you’re limited to an hour, then, of football or speed and agility or anything else.”

He added, though, that the five days will be a good rest for players who have participated in practices all summer long.

“After these five days, I think (the schedule) is reasonable,” he said. “You have plenty of time to get done what you need to get done. But for these first five days, we’ll have to back off. I don’t think it’ll affect much, though. As hard as we’ve been working all summer, five days off may be a good thing.”

East Hall coach Bryan Gray said the difficulty for his team will be incorporating all the parts of practice he’d like to include, while also paying close attention to the time and water regulations.

“It’s a challenge to get everything in,” he said. “Especially when you have kids that are learning. And there’s also the unknown. We may have this time scaled back now and then run into a heat wave that gets in our way down the road. We just have to make sure that the kids are getting enough time to acclimate to the conditions and get their bodies ready.”

Luttrell said that, for Chestatee, getting acclimated has been a process all summer long.

“Our guys have been here all summer, so they’re basically acclimated,” he said. “This just verifies that they’re used to everything before getting full gear.”

And even if coaches could let that time spent on the field over the summer take the place of the mandatory five-day conditioning period, Miller said he wouldn’t.

“We aren’t going to let it count,” he said. “We feel like it’s so important to get our kids acclimated, even though they’ve been out in it all summer long. We want them to get acclimated to go into practice. I fee like that’s a great rule to put into play.”

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