Heat safety a concern for student athletes

Deep passes. Long runs. Big stops.

The high school football season kicks off this Friday.

But a summer of sweltering heat has forced coaches to spend much of their time not drawing up plays, but defending their players from the high temperatures.

"We're about the safety of our student athletes," said Johnny Seabrooks, Dougherty County Athletic Director. "What the heat policy does is gives us a guideline so the coaches know when it's safe to practice and when it's not safe."

Especially when you add the extra weight of full pads.

The Dougherty County School System follows strict guidelines when it comes to protecting all of its students.

"Everybody in our system knows where we are," said Seabrooks. "It's not having one policy for band and one policy for â" but all outside activities."

"We have a water break every 15 minutes to make sure the guys are hydrated and even if they had that water during that 15 minute break time we'll continuously give them water throughout practice," said Felton Williams, an assistant coach for Albany High School's football team.

Coaches and school officials use a device called a psychrometer that measures the heat index. If the reading is too high, practices are postponed or canceled.

Despite the interference with the teams' schedule, Coach Williams says it's better to be safe than sorry.

"It's a policy I support wholeheartedly because it makes sure that no one child is put in harm's way," said Williams.