The tradition is dead.

And it should be.

In an effort to cut down heat-related ailments to athletes in recent years, the University Interscholastic League unveiled new practice policies aimed at creating safer practice conditions after last season.

Belton coach Rodney Southern didn’t like it initially and Harker Heights coach Mike Mullins was unsure of it.

Like it or not, though, they have been forced to adjust to it.

Because safety for high school athletes matters more than winning, and they know it.

In a period of less than 20 years, 40 high school football players have died from heat stroke, according to the National Center for Catastrophic Sport Injury Research at the University of North Carolina.

Despite steps to prevent heat-related deaths by coaches, regulators and parents, the trend isn’t stopping.

Five high school players died last year, including Isaiah Laurencin, who was practicing for a spot on the Miramar High (Fla.) football team.

Suddenly, he collapsed during conditioning drills and died.

Less than a month ago, 15-year-old Nicholas Dellaventura collapsed and died just after he and his Staten Island, N.Y., team, St. Joseph’s By the Sea High, teammates had finished a voluntary 90-minute preseason conditioning workout.

So, while some coaches may not like it, the only thing anyone can do is adapt — to do what has to be done and protect the players.

The new regulations should cause there to be fewer stories about players collapsing or even dying from over-extensive practices in the over-bearing Texas heat.

And that is why the UIL got it right for once.

Among the new UIL policies, teams cannot schedule more than one practice — of no more than 3 hours — on any single day during the four-day acclimatization period.

During those first four days of practice, if there is more than one practice session, the second must be relegated to a non-contact equipment — including helmets — walkthrough with no conditioning included.

Following the four-day acclimatization period, teams are permitted to hold two practices in a single day but they must be separated by a two-hour break period and there are never to be consecutive days in which two practices are held.

Due to the new practice restrictions, Belton has been going with a longer-than-normal 2½-hour practice in the morning and following that with an afternoon walkthrough.

In prior years, Southern has run 1½-hour practices twice a day during preseason camp.

But he changed because he knew it was right.

As did Mullins, and now the Knights coach might even prefer the quick-paced practice environment it has created.

Or at least that’s what he is saying.

“It’s just so fast-paced and they’re moving ... so they’re just switching in and out and they’re going. And after they go hard, someone else comes in,” Mullins told the Daily Herald earlier this week.

Given the shorter practice times, Temple coach Mike Spradlin is focusing on efficiency, insisting that if he can’t get done what needs to be done in a couple of hours, than he is the one at fault, not the new regulations.

Regardless of how area coaches are adapting to the new regulations one thing is certain: What used to be a staple of preseason football is getting phased out quicker than the wishbone offense.

There shouldn’t be any more overused stories about grueling football practices like Paul “Bear” Bryant’s Junction Boys at Texas A&M.

It isn’t acceptable anymore to have players passing out, puking and peeing brown after football practice.

Simply winning a game isn’t worth it.

As for the tradition? That isn’t worth keeping alive, either.

Contact Nick Talbot at or (254) 501-7569


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