Ask around and any football coach will tell you that success on the field comes from many factors that are a long ways away from the Friday night lights.
As the official first day of full-pads practices began on Thursday throughout the state, Statesboro High —which is no stranger to success and championships — is still working through the off-field hurdles that go into making an on-field success story.
The Georgia High School Association set July 25 as the start of “acclimation days” practices, allowing for players to run through drills in nothing more than helmets in order to get used to the heat and humidity of any Georgia summer. Five days of these practices are mandated before players can fully suit up and start regular drills.
As classes began on Thursday, the Blue Devils were still in the midst of these stepping stones.
“It’s important for our players to go through this acclimation period,” SHS coach Steve Pennington said. “At the same time, it’s a great stress on the coaching staff to make sure that we go through the processes and do everything the right way.”
For many schools in the state, these first few days of fall camp are more about regulations than reps. While trying to field a competitive team, coaches have less than a month to get their squads ready for the opening week of the regular season.
Combine that short window with other stipulations, and the task gets even more daunting.
New rules throughout Georgia now mandate individual documentation and permission for guidelines and precautions relating to heat acclimation and concussion awareness. The guidelines are overwhelmingly supported by administrators and coaches alike, but also cause more strain on popular programs such as Statesboro High.
“This really tests our abilities to be bookkeepers as well as coaches,” Pennington said. “We want to ensure the well-being of our players and we want to do everything by the books.
“But we also have almost 100 guys who are out here with us. When you’re dealing with young kids, it’s a big task to keep track of signed forms and document all of their acclimation days individually.”
All things considered, the Devils have been pretty lucky. Pennington estimated around 90 players showing up for each summer workout. He lauded the parents of younger players — who require transportation — for coordinating their schedules to make sure that all paperwork is taken care of and that their children were able to make it to workouts during non-school hours to continue their growth into the Blue Devils’ family.
Even as the Statesboro coaches peck away at the secretarial duties that ensure all of their players are good to go, the elements have joined in to conspire against progress.
Due to a wet July and a soaked practice field, Thursday’s practice forced the Devils to the track and to patches of grass surrounding the main field.
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.