Player safety at forefront as two-a-days begin
As a player in the late 1990s at the University of Dayton, Ready High School football coach Joel Cutler received an insight into preparation that he got to experience firsthand last year.
Although he's gone through two-a-days -- or when he was a college athlete, three-a-days -- every year since his freshman season at Jonathan Alder in 1990, Cutler said it's different experiencing that hectic time as a head coach.
After previously serving as an assistant at Upper Arlington from 1999-2011, Cutler is excited about his second opportunity to lead a team through two-a-day practices.
According to the OHSAA, the first day of official coaching, which includes two-a-days, is Aug. 5. Schools that begin classes Aug. 16 or earlier can begin full practices Aug. 1.
"My college coach, Mike Kelly, used to say that for every hour of practice there's four hours of preparation," Cutler said. "A lot of time and energy is spent making sure practice is ready. Organization is immense. (The) parents (of Ready players) will tell you that I have every single two-a-day mapped out up to five minutes. Every five minutes parents should know if their kid is in a water break or 'chalk talk.'
"Every 15 minutes we have a mandatory water break. The first week of two-a-days, we (start) real early to beat the heat. Our kids don't mind getting up at 5:30 or 6 (a.m.). The first week we'll go back-to-back and get done by 1 (p.m.) with the whole day."
Hilliard Davidson coach Brian White also takes pride in his staff's attention to detail when it comes to two-a-days, particularly in the area of safety.
According to a study released on the OHSAA website, heat illness is the leading cause of preventable death in high school athletes.
Because Davidson has had the same trainer since White took over as coach in 1999, he thinks his program always has placed a proper amount of emphasis on the subject.
It's an area, however, that he believes other schools have begun taking more seriously in recent years.
"We've always placed an importance on taking care of kids in the heat and I don't think we do it a lot differently than we've always done it," White said. "But things might be different for a lot of other people. People are taking more precautions than they have in the past and have started to adjust their practice schedule to the heat index."
While Cutler believes he and his staff have their program's safety precautions properly balanced, there are some aspects of the early days of official coaching that he plans to do slightly different this year.
"There's going to be a fine-tuning or a tweaking that we'll do for this year," Cutler said. "This year I'd rather execute a handful of things on a high level rather than do a lot of things in an average way."
Westerville Central coach John Magistro, who earned two state runner-up finishes and went 181-76 from 1984-2006 at Bellaire, thinks logistics are the biggest difference in two-a-day practices compared to when he started coaching.
The first day of school in Westerville is Aug. 14. Once teachers begin work Aug. 12, Magistro said having two-a-days will not be as practical because some of his assistants will have other responsibilities at school.
"When I first started, most of the games started the weekend of Labor Day and you were allowed so many days of two-a-days," he said. "Now Aug. 1 is when we can start two-a-days and they have five acclimation days. Our first scrimmage is Aug. 17, and you figure that you're not allowed to put on full pads until Aug. 6.
"Everybody does (two-a-days) a little differently. When teachers officially return to school ... Aug. 12, you're actually really only able to have one-a-day practices, whereas somebody in Cleveland might still be having two-a-days."