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MHSAA schools battle heat as preseason practice begins

By Staff
MAKING THE PITCH Anthony Brown makes a toss during practice while coach Wyatt Rodgers uses a blocking pad to simulate a defensive player. The Wildcats, who open the season at home against Clinton on Aug. 29, began their preseason practices on Monday. Photo by Kyle Carter/The Meridian Star
By Will Bardwell / staff writer
Aug. 5 2003
Local public high school football teams opened preseason practice on Monday, battling temperatures in the low 90s to begin shedding rusty fundamentals and extra pounds.
Monday was the first day on which teams were permitted to practice, according to Mississippi High School Activities Association rules. The area Mississippi Private School Association schools opened practice a week ago.
Area coaches used the day to familiarize players with formations and practice routines. West Lauderdale head coach Stan McCain said the first day of practice is used to gradually help players adjust to the rigors of working in the heat.
"Basically we're trying to get them into football shape," said McCain. "Generally, it's a lot of going back to basics, as well as doing some conditioning work."
Teams opened up in t-shirts and shorts, and will don shoulder pads on Thursday. They will be allowed to use full pads on their sixth day of practice, which will be either Saturday or Monday.
Weather could pose a challenge to coaches' plans for the week. Temperatures above 90 degrees are expected throughout the week, and isolated thunderstorms are possible through Friday.
Meridian head coach Ed Stanley said he will adjust if the weather interferes with his practices.
"The good thing about being in shorts is that the rain won't knock out any scrimmages, because you're not having any," Stanley said. "We'll just shoot from the hip. We'll do some kind of work, even if it's just a walk-through on concrete."
As long as storms don't impede, Stanley will have his Wildcats working outside. Even though Stanley will not put his team through two-a-day practices, he said heat poses an undeniable threat.
"You've got to keep the kids full of fluids," said Stanley. "As much as you don't want to do it, sometimes you have to slow the pace down. You may get in fewer repetitions, but if your team's concentration is suffering, what good is that?"
Injuries are another problem that coaches must avoid in the heat of summer practice.
"A lot of it is luck," said McCain. "Stretching is a big key to staying injury-free. The players have been spending time in the weight room, and that's important in strengthening muscles and ligaments."
Stanley said there are some practical measures that can be taken to avoid injuries, such as using one-on-one drills.
"If you have some kids who have a history of nagging injuries, you can tape them up while they're in shorts," said Stanley. "There's no secret to avoiding injuries. Some things you have to get done, even if there's an increased possibility of injury. You do a lot of praying."
Despite the fact that nearly a month remains until kickoff, summer practice is vital in setting a tempo for the rest of the season, according to McCain.
"Football is a lot easier when you're playing games, and right now we've got four weeks of practice staring us in the face," said McCain. "Right now, it's tough. If you can get through the first couple of weeks, you're a lot closer to getting on the field and testing yourself against an opponent."