Marguerite Cline: Heat too dangerous for high school athletes, musicians
by Marguerite Cline
Guest Columnist
August 13, 2010 12:00 AM | 1369 views | 7 7 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Since I have written about this subject several times before, you might say it is the same song, umpteenth verse.

Once again, it is summer in the deep South. The heat is soaring. The humidity is unbearable. Fans and air-conditioners are running full time, and we are drinking everything we can find. Common sense tells us to take care of ourselves. So, we do everything we can to keep safe from heart attacks, heat strokes and other heat-related illnesses.

Well, most of us are using common sense. In my opinion, those in charge of high school sports are not. That is the Georgia High School Association. They are the folks who make the rules for most things regarding high school competitions including football and band. That includes scheduling when practices begin and when games are played.

Last week, an Atlanta high school marching band was at Reinhardt University, just up the street from where I live, preparing for the upcoming football season. News reports said eight students became sick, and two were taken to the hospital. The cause of their distress was attributed to being out in the extreme heat.

It is a rare year when we do not hear about students getting sick, collapsing or even dying while they are practicing for or playing fall sports. "Fall sports" is an all important term. You see, fall is not here yet. We are in the middle of the summer doing things that could and should be done during cooler weather.

Since the school year now begins earlier than it did in the past, GHSA must think football season must begin earlier, too. It is one thing for our students to be in air-conditioned classrooms with the early August school beginning dates. But it is ridiculous for our high school players and marching band members to be practicing under the blazing hot sun at this time of the year.

It is easy to see that GHSA needs to adjust its calendar. Some want to argue that reworking the calendar cannot be done. It would run football season into other sports seasons. It would affect the dates for the playoffs, etc., etc., etc.

Some seem to have forgotten that the No. 1 responsibility of everyone in Georgia's schools is to protect the physical safety of our children. That is more important than reading, writing and arithmetic or Latin, trigonometry and physics. When we put our kids out in heat like we are doing now to practice football and march waving big flags, carrying tubas and big drums, we are failing to protect them. In fact, in my opinion, this is, or borders on, child endangerment.

Now do not blame our coaches or our band directors. They are doing everything they can to protect our kids under very difficult conditions - providing an abundance of drinking water, practicing during the coolest part of the day, etc. Plus, they are endangered just as the students are.

So, who do we blame? Those who make the decisions about when practices and competitions begin. Start with the GHSA. The schedule the organization publishes is by necessity very complex. Making adjustments will not be easy. It will be a massive task. But the current schedule should not be a sacred cow. The safety and lives of our children are at stake.

Is it time for local boards of education to mandate change? If enough boards of education will give GHSA an ultimatum to stop this madness or their schools will pull out and form another agency to govern sports, you can be assured GHSA will reschedule the calendar.

Those of you reading this column who know me personally may be thinking, "Why were you not saying this when you were Cherokee County's school superintendent?" The answer is simple. The school year did not begin in the middle of the summer back then.

The directors of GHSA are well-educated and experienced coaches, athletic directors and school administrators. I am sure they are good people.

But with all of their education and experience, why are they are not using their common sense?

Most of us have heard that "if we always do what we've always done, we'll always get what we've always got." It is time for change. Otherwise, we will continue to endanger our students, our coaches and our band directors. In some incidences, the results may be tragic.

Marguerite Cline is the former mayor of Waleska and a former county school superintendent.
Comments-icon Post a Comment
September 18, 2010
The football start date for the last 5 (I believe, it may be 6) years has been August 1st. That did not change because of the earlier start date this year. Although I do agree that this start date seems a little absurd! As a healthcare provider who works with high school athletes daily, I would like to point out one thing you did not address in your article- while yes it is hot here in the south, why do we never talk about the lack of outdoors many of our kids see? I do contend that it may be a few degrees hotter now than it used to be BUT it is not THAT much hotter. The real issue is that kids simply do not expose themselves to the outdoors and the temperatures as much as we used to. I remember not being allowed to come inside before the street lights came on, but now-a-days you can't hardly find children playing outside. If it is too hot (according to them) they go right back inside and play video games. This is why when we begin sports, band, etc. in August the kids' bodies have a hard time adjusting to it. It has less to do with the temperature outside and more with the students' bodies not being accustomed to being in the heat. Also, please note that there are a lot precautions that go into kids being on the field. I know that many teams have Athletic Trainers who work diligently every day to keep these kids safe. Please don't discount the work and safety measures they do each practice to ensure that kids are given the breaks they need and are taken care of during practice.
August 15, 2010
Please don't put her in as super- she doesn't know all the facts. GHSA does NOT over see band. From the GHSA website: "The GHSA provides services to its member schools in the organization and administration of Region and State events in the following: BOYS: Baseball, Basketball, Cross Country, Football, Golf, Lacrosse, Riflery, Soccer, Swimming, Tennis, Track, Wrestling - GIRLS: Basketball, Cheerleading (co-ed), Cross Country, Golf, Gymnastics, Lacrosse, Riflery, Fast Pitch Softball, Soccer, Swimming, Tennis, Track, Volleyball - LITERARY: Dramatic Interpretation, Essay, Extemporaneous Speaking, One Act Plays, Quartet, Spelling, Trio, Vocal Solo." The fact is, Band answers to no-one.
West Cobb Resident
August 14, 2010
The GHSA schedules the season so they can end the season at the Georgia Dome, and they have to schedule around the SEC championship game, among other things. The football season isn't starting any earlier this year than in past years. It's really dictated by other forces.
August 14, 2010
One vote here for Marguarite Cline for Cobb County School Super. Let's put some Common Sense at the helm for a change.
August 13, 2010
As the level of education increases, the level of common scense decreases. Those with the MBA's and Doctorates are running the show.
August 13, 2010
The powers that be REALLY need to take this column to heart. Earlier start dates necessitate our band and sports programs to start even earlier. And, since this columnist brought up the subject of air conditioned classrooms, many classrooms at our school have been without air conditioning for a week. MOVE THE CALENDAR BACK TO STARTING AFTER LABOR DAY so bands and sports can practice later in the season and our children are not sitting in hot classrooms and riding on hot busses. (I'm sure Fred S. is not sitting in an office without air conditioning.)
common sense
August 13, 2010
At last, some common sense from someone who knows of what she speaks! Hope you keep plugging away at this. It is dangerous for anyone, kids included, to overexert in this kind of weather. Something is going to have to change before we have a tragedy linked to the heat! Our children are too precious to us to take a chance that doing the same old thing in these conditions is going to work.
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