Teams make allowances for the heat


Youth squads' practices and workouts are modified and scaled back

`there was nothing real strenuous'

At Play


Howard County's recreational football teams faced unusual obstacles when starting practice two weeks ago.

They had to make adjustments because of extreme heat and humidity as workouts began Aug. 1. Mike Milani, a sports supervisor for Howard County Department of Recreation and Parks and president of the Central Maryland Football League, said practices and workouts were modified and scaled back because of the heat -- but it was something the teams were ready to deal with.

"We've had policies in place regarding being careful with the heat," Milani said. "We've always had [those] policies. It helps us with awareness for the coaches."

There has been more discussion of the subject in recent days with football heat-related problems arising, most tragically the death of a Northern Virginia high school player because of heat stroke after a practice last week.

Kept it simple

Howard County teams have kept it simple. No one used pads until the heat wave ended, and the length of practices and some types of drills were curtailed.

"There was nothing real strenuous," Milani said.

The teams stuck mainly to chalk talks and light workouts that did not put too much strain on the children while still teaching them what they needed to know.

Everything got back on track after the first several days of practice. Teams can practice up to 10 hours a week until school begins. That usually means two hours of practice a night for five weeknights and scrimmages on weekends. Teams can work out for up to six hours a week when school begins, and that usually involve three two-hour practices.

Milani said that more than 1,700 young people in Howard County are playing tackle football on about 95 teams. There is also flag football in different forms. The Howard County Terps, Columbia Steelers, Western Howard County Warhawks and the Howard County Hurricanes play in the Central Maryland Football League. The Warhawks organization has more than 500 youngsters and 25 teams.

The Ravens team shifted to the Harford Baltimore Football League this season, but it plays home games in Howard County -- the main difference will come with the road schedule.

Milani said he believes that football in Howard County is growing because of a change in philosophy over the past four years. The biggest difference involves the size of team rosters.

Roster numbers

Teams commonly had 33 to 35 children on the roster a few years ago, something that made it harder for coaches to get a fair amount of playing time for all of the kids, especially because 11 players are needed on offense and defense. The number of needed players can be reduced further if some youngsters play both offense and defense.

Milani said that coaches reduced rosters to 22 to 25 players and created additional teams, thereby creating more playing time for everyone.

"We formed more teams and more opportunities for kids to play," Milani said. "I think that retention is higher. I think more kids are coming back to play."

But no matter how long a child plays, summer practices are needed to properly prepare for the season.

Paul Haley, president of the Howard County Terps, said that summer practice is for teaching the game.

"With summer practice, they get physical conditioning," Haley said. "It gets them prepared for the football sport."

Haley said the Terps spend the first few days evaluating their athletes. Players are separated into two divisions. The more experienced, athletic and competitive will play in the American League. The National League is more of a developmental program.

Teaching lessons also is a key for the Terps. Haley said the coaches use the team's name to spell out some lessons. They tell the players that the name "Terps" means "teamwork, excellence, respect, perseverance and success," qualities the coaches want the players to have.

A group of cheerleaders practices along with the Terps as players prepare for the season.

There is going to be at least one new twist in Howard County football this year. The opening of a turf field at Western Regional Park will make scheduling easier. Milani said that teams of all age groups are going to use the field. He also said that an average of four to six fields are used each weekend in Howard County.

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