The Washington County Board of Education agreed Tuesday to ask the association that regulates interscholastic athletics for Maryland’s public high schools to make the start of preseason practice for fall sports earlier next summer.
The school board’s decision to send the request to the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association stemmed from a new heat-acclimatization policy that delays when high school football players can have full contact in preseason practice.
The heat-acclimatization policy is called for under state law and affects preseason practice for all fall sports, but impacts football the most.
The policy sets procedures to help student-athletes adapt to practicing in hot weather. It includes when football players can practice in pads and have full contact, when they can have two practices a day and information about keeping hydrated.
Under the new policy, football players cannot practice in full gear with full contact until the sixth day of practice.
School Board President Wayne Ridenour said he didn’t think the heat-acclimatization policy was a bad idea, but was concerned about football players competing against out-of-state teams during the first week of regular season football because football practice starts earlier in West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
In West Virginia, practice started Aug. 1, he said.
In Washington County, practice starts Aug. 11.
“Football is a collision sport. You don’t get ready for that overnight,” Ridenour said.
It takes significant time for youths to understand how to hit and how to protect themselves before getting into a game situation, he said.
The school board voted 5-1 to approve the first reading of a new heat-acclimatization policy for student-athletes.
Board member Karen Harshman was absent.