Coaches eyeing thermometer

ALBANY, Ga. -- Dougherty County School System Athletics Director Johnny Seabrooks says Albany public high schools are taking precautions to ensure athletes are protected as they prepare in steamy weather for the coming football season.

Noting the deaths this week of two 16-year-old football players -- Don'terio J. Searcy of Fitzgerald and Forrest Jones of Locust Grove -- that are believed to have been heat-related, Seabrooks, speaking at the Friday luncheon of the Exchange Club of Albany, said the players' safety has to come first.

There are mandatory water breaks when the heat index rises to 94 and above, Seabrooks said. And while bulk is a benefit on the football field, it can be a liability in oppressive heat. Bigger players might need to hydrate more often than every 20 minutes, he said, and that is encouraged.

"When the heat index rises to 105, we are going to shutdown practice and go inside," Seabrooks said. "I'd rather for us to be behind in practices than have to walk behind a coffin."

Seabrooks also outlined the athletic news at the four public high schools, including new infrastructure and sportsmanship.

With the passage of the last Special Option Local Option Sales Tax to fund projects, Seabrooks said Hugh Mills Stadium can expect a new scoreboard and fencing. In a couple years, he said, synthetic turf should be in place.

Although the track at the stadium is very close to the field, which could mean a tight fit, Seabrooks said he was planning on ways to bring soccer to the field.

Regarding good sportsmanship, he said there are times when family or friends of athletes become too involved in the games. That can lead to confrontations and even physical violence.

"We say the Georgia High School Sportsmanship statement before each game," Seabrooks said. "Parents need to show up to support their children, but people should know if you act out you can be ejected."