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PIAA continues discussions over heat acclimatization guidelines

| Thursday, Jan. 24, 2013, 9:38 p.m.

The PIAA board of directors' Meeting Thursday evening at the organization's headquarters picked up steam when the topic of heat acclimatization guidelines took center stage.

During a meeting in December, the first reading was proposed that a three-day period would be required for all fall student-athletes to go through before strenuous practices began. The goal is to protect the athletes from heat-related illnesses but the language of the guidelines didn't go over well with the all of the members.

A second reading was proposed during Thursday's meeting and the topic will be brought up again at the board of directors' meeting in March where the football steering committee hopes to come up with a heat-acclimatization guideline that reads better with all the members.

“The football steering committee is recommending that this board amend that policy that the head coach be required to submit a plan of heat acclimatization,” PIAA assistant executive director Mark Byers said. “That plan would be submitted to the principal.”

Instantly members' hands shot up with questions and there were plenty of them.

Under the current proposal, a coach would be required to submit a proposal of heat acclimatization that their respective principal would have to approve. Members worry that this current reading needs to be changed because it would require coaches to put in additional time and would allow them to undergo the acclimatization process three days before the required start date of the fall season. Three additional days, plus putting the plan in place, concerned members because of the financial burden it could create.

This means the coaches are spending more time creating and utilizing the plan and more days of work for the support staff and trainers. Many of these members spoke of financial hardships and budget issues in their districts and felt the language needed to be reworked before the guidelines can be passed.

“With contracts and trainers it's going to add additional expenses to bring them in,” one member said. “Some of the schools are cutting the salaries of their football staffs in half as far as salaries. Now they're going to ask them to come in for another three days before the season?”

Without reworking the plan, student-athletes could go through acclimatization for three days, each for no more than three hours on the practice field, and then practice could begin. However, if the school didn't do the acclimatization before the official start date of fall practice, they would then have to take the first three days of fall practice to undergo acclimatization.

Under this language, a first padded practice for football could then be held on Thursday and according to the current reading, teams would be able to scrimmage that Saturday. Questions about if players would be prepared to scrimmage after just two days of full practice and whether it would lead to more injuries were raised.

“We don't think they'd be ready to scrimmage that quickly, and from talking with the coaches they're worried that kids are going to get hurt,” George Shue, Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association Associate Executive Director, said. “They're concerned.”

Worth noting: The PIAA Competitive Spirit championships will be held Feb. 2 at Hersheypark Arena and gearing up for the event has been a lengthy process.

The event kicks off at 9 a.m. with the small and medium squad preliminaries. The large squad preliminaries will follow, as will callbacks. The finals will begin at 4:30 p.m.

There will be a competitive spirit steering committee next year, and after the event members will meet to see how they can improve the championship in the future.

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