Ahhh, the smell of freshly cut grass, cleats, formations, drills, whistles, the sounds of pads being hit, plastic cracking, friendships and camaraderie being formed; it's August, the start of football, the start of two-a-days. But, no, I'm not referring to professional football. I'm talking about the start of High School football.
High School football: A rite of passage for our youth, if you will, has a way of forming a group of individuals, into a whole, into a team. It forms group cohesion, a win-by-any-means-necessary attitude; but at the same time, it forms greed, ambition and competition. That's when it is no longer just about the intrinsic joy of playing football.
Competition is exactly the reason that we are fueled to push ourselves a little harder, for the coach, for the team (maybe), but, more importantly, for our own individual success. We try to emulate the football heroes we idolize, and we work hard trying to do so in an attempt to get to the "next-level."
Because football in particular, teaches boys to be tough, to play hurt, to be stoic and aggressive, it comes with many dangerous risks; risks that can potentially cost football players their lives.
Now, it's no secret that a good majority of America's youth is out-of-shape, but, it doesn't stop them from joining football programs. Why should it? It's a sport they enjoy—for whatever reason that is for them—and it keeps them active. But, is it healthy to have these youths, in full pads and helmet, running drills at full speed and hitting each other in the sweltering heat?
There have been six cases just this August, where six teenage boys have died during football practice (and the number will keep rising).
One such occasion involved a boy from Arkansas that collapsed on the field during a night practice. The temperature that night had a heat index of 110 degrees. Imagine practicing in that kind of heat, with all that padding on. Officials are still trying to determine whether the heat was a factor.
Just as we know football to be a fall/winter sport (for a reason), so are the August two-a-day practices that are inextricable from the football schedule. Is it really necessary to practice long hours during the August heat, where most of the time it's unbearable, especially in the southern states?
There really is no logical reason for it. Is it preventable? Yes. But, I don't think practice schedules will change any time soon, not many changes have been made since the rise of football related deaths this past decade thus far. Unfortunately.