By Joel Weckerly, Sports Editor
Over 90 ACU football players reported to preseason camp practice on Aug. 11 with a slightly different schedule.
In an attempt to curb the sometimes disastrous effects of heat-related illnesses that have received much intention in recent years, the NCAA mandated that, beginning this summer, Division I and II programs could not hold two-a-day practices for the first week of summer practice. For the remaining weeks, teams can only hold two-a-days on alternating days.
“I think I like it,” head coach Gary Gaines said, “and the players haven’t complained. It’s logical; it makes sense. It eliminates stress on the big guys, and it gives us more classroom time to watch video, make corrections and do a better job of teaching.”
As a result of the mandate, Gaines and his coaching staff have designed a double-day and single-day practice schedule. The double practice days focus on a full-pad workout in the less-hot mornings and a shoulder pad and helmet practice in the afternoon, followed by meetings in the evening. Single practice days have the same morning workout with meetings and weight training regimens spread through the afternoon and evening.
“Sometimes it’s a little strange,” junior safety Danieal Manning said. “You feel awkward coming home in the morning and not having practice for the rest of the day.”
Gaines and head trainer Rick Fox said that heat has not been a big problem for the team.
“There have been a couple afternoons where the temperature got over 100 degrees, but the heat really hasn’t been too bad,” Fox said. “We give our athletes unlimited water. At any given time, water is within five to 10 yards from the players.” Fox also said that players are given sodium on a regular basis and are encouraged to eat salty foods between practices.
All in all, though, Fox said he’s kept the same basic heat protocols for the past six years. “It’s not a bigger concern this year. I’ve been doing this for 21 years, and it’s always been a concern.”
Gaines said that, generally speaking, players reported to camp healthy and ready to practice hard before their season opener on Sept. 4.
“A key element for us was that a vast majority of guys reported in good shape,” he said. “They’ve done their work over the summer, and that’s always positive to me because there’s a reflection that the season’s important to them.”
Through the learning-emphasized camp, Gaines and his staff have spent a lot of time teaching game fundamentals to the new and returning players.
“We’re gonna work on fundamentals every day,” Gaines said. “We don’t ever get away from that. We’re trying to make sure our players fully grasp the concepts of offense and defense. We’re more thorough in teaching; we want to make sure they know what they’re doing.”
Practice will continue through this week and next week before the regular season begins.
Look for more on the football team in Wednesday and Friday’s issues of the Optimist.