While the goal for the start of preseason is to get players in shape, football coaches across Berkshire County are being extra careful to protect their players from one element they cannot control — the heat.
More coaches are moving practices to later times in the day to avoid the mid-afternoon sun and higher temperatures that come with it.
At McCann Tech, coach Bob LeClair — one of the longest tenured coaches in the county — still believes in the traditional early morning practices.
"I think it's cooler at the time," he said. "Our field is covered in dew in the morning and I don't think the heat has started up yet.
"It gets the kids up and going. We do our practices in the mornings, have lunch here and then we have our meetings in the afternoon."
At Taconic, the team practices from 3-5 p.m. in the offseason, because that's the time they'd practice during school, coach Jim Ziter said.
Regardless of the time of day, wearing a helmet can increase a player's core temperature. Once shoulder pads and other protective gear is added, core temperatures can rise even more, increasing the chances of heat-related injuries.
Hoosac Valley coach Dayne Poirot said it's important for his players to be properly educated on hydration and how to deal with the heat.
"We have things available for them to do all summer," he said. "To do some running, do strength and condition. That helps them out and keeps them busy in the heat, so they're used to it."
A big help in battling heat-related issues is the ice bath. The frigid plunge in a ice-soaked tub may not be the most pleasant experience for an athlete, but Poirot said it's a big help in recovery. Ice baths are said to help reduce muscle soreness in addition to helping drop an athletes core temperature, which is critical after a long day in the sun.
"Whatever can help them recover and whatever helps them feel safer and more comfortable — we're doing for them," he said.
The Taconic football team will need to keep traveling playlists up to date, because the Braves are going to be spending a lot of time on the bus this season. The team has only two designated home games (both at Wahconah Park), and the non-league games will be quite a ways away. They'll travel over 800 miles round trip, about 14 hours of riding, for trips to Sandwich High School, Belchertown and St. Mary's of Lynn, respectively. The team does have short trips to Hoosac Valley in Week 5 and to Wahconah in Week 6. Followed by a home game against South Hadley, before finishing against crosstown rival Pittsfield at Wahconah Park.
Ziter said the trip to Sandwich will be an overnight trip, and the team is approaching the season similar to a college team, where long bus rides are just part of the experience.
Contact Akeem Glaspie at 413-496-6252.