In Play with Tom Markowski


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Lowell coach holds practices early to beat the heat, save time

By: Tom Markowski, August 11, 2016, 4:07 pm



Lowell – Coach Noel Dean doesn’t always say what people want to hear. The longtime Lowell coach developed his own coaching style, is a big proponent of the veer offense and would rather have his players wear shoulder pads the first two days of practice and leave the helmets in the locker room.

His practice schedule for the 17 days prior to the start of the season is atypical and is could be just what is called for in the dog days of summer.

The heat index reached 100 degrees or better throughout much of the Lower Peninsula and there’s no excuse for coaches, players and parents involved with football to be aware of the precautions one can take to prevent heat-related injuries.

Those looking for current data, information and guidelines one can to the Michigan High School Athletic Association website and click on the health and safety icon at the top.

Some examples of the aforementioned are mandatory water breaks every 30 minutes. The use of Ice-down towels for cooling and the monitoring of athletes for signs of heat exhaustion such as dizziness.

Another the tip provided is to postpone practice until later in the day.

Dean disagrees. Practice starts at 7 a.m. in Lowell and the players are off the field by 10. They do go inside for film sessions and meetings before they are free to go.

“We want to have them in their living rooms by 11:30 (a.m.),” he said. “We want the kids to have some time for themselves while summer is still here. Coaches have lives, too. They have families.

“The heat? Heck, we’re done by 10. The first hour and half it’s business as usual. When we have them we want to have them concentrate on football. We squeeze out every minute. We try to keep it game live. Games last three hours. We want to establish that tempo.”

Dean got the idea almost out of necessity. When the state playoffs were expanded to five weeks from four in 1999 Dean saw the writing on the wall. This expansion meant the season would start one week sooner. Often that would lead to two games being played before Labor Day as it is this season. Dean thought of the students who chose to play football and their summers being sliced by a week. He also thought of the possibility that some of those prospective players would choose not to play because of the increase in the time commitment.

“Everybody adjusts,” Dean said.

Friday could provide the most recent challenge for coaches. It’s the day teams, which have had four days of what amounts to conditioning (first two days with helmets, the third and fourth days with shoulder pads), to hold practices in full equipment.

And Orchard Lake St. Mary’s coach George Porritt is concerned with Friday’s temperature expected to reach the 90 degree mark.

“The heat, to me, is the No. 1 concern,” he said. “Are we acclimated to the heat? We’ve cut back a little (because of the heat). I don’t mind the rule changes but less tackling time, I don’t know. I’d like to have my Thursdays back.”

Last season the MHSAA changed rules for the first week of practice. Teams used to hold three practices with just helmets then start full contact drills on the fourth day. Now its two days with helmets then two days with shoulder pads before full contact on the fifth. Teams will participate in scrimmages next week, some on Wednesday, most on Thursday, leaving teams with a maximum of four days of practice in full equipment instead of five to get ready.