Commentary: Don’t sweat the earlier start to high school football season

Mingus football players hydrate before the Red and Gray Scrimmage on Aug. 3. VVN/James Kelley

Mingus football players hydrate before the Red and Gray Scrimmage on Aug. 3. VVN/James Kelley

Are you ready for some football?

Apparently some people aren’t.

I’m sure the players and coaches are excited that high school football season starts this week but there’s been a lot of chatter among the high school media that this week is too early to start the season.

In previous years this would be Zero Week, which you know is unique because the AIA calls its other ones Week 3, Week 7 etc. However Zero Week became so popular in recent years that this season the AIA abandoned the name Zero Week and just it made it Week 1.

Previously Zero Week was more for games against Nevada or Phoenix teams playing in Flagstaff.

Last year there were 54 games in Zero Week and this week there are 76.

With this being the first season of football starting in mid August and a few players in the Phoenix Area having to go to the hospital for heat related issues it’s natural that people are questioning playing in August in Arizona.

However the benefits of the extra week are great. Instead of jamming 10 games into 10 weeks, the football season starting in mid August allows for a bye week.

The kids should get a week off from games to heal up.

Plus starting earlier can be better for the student athletes’ academics.

“I think it’s a good thing because you get your bye,” Mingus head coach Robert Ortiz said about the season’s start. “Specifically we get our bye halfway through the year which is good because by that time guys are getting banged up I think with schools and administrations and things like that it’s become a focal point that fall athletics specially football, that they’re able to focus on their academics so I think that bumping it up a week pretty much helps out with the end of the season so the kids can get back on track before the end of the semester.”

You could move the season back and keep the bye week but that bleeds more into winter sports.

Plus if they moved the start of the season back a little it still starts when it is hot in places like Phoenix. Summer like weather in Arizona doesn’t end when the calendar says it is fall.

Sure it’s easy to say mid August is an acceptable start time for football games from Northern Arizona but I did play high school football in Tucson, which is not that chilly in August and early September.

Granted there has been a few factors that have changed since I played like temperatures getting hotter and hotter and the exponential increase in the number of artificial turf fields in the state but schools just need to get smarter about practice.

The games are at 7 p.m., why not start practice in the early evening when it is cooler? After school football players could have a study hall before practice.

They could also limit practices on rubber fields in the hot parts of the state.

If using the lights for practice is too expensive then what about pushing the sports school year back? Start fall sports (which are mostly outside) competitions in September, keep the bye week for football and push winter season practices to December and spring practices to March.

Other states schedule around their climates, obviously high school baseball in the Midwest doesn’t start in the February like here.

The start of the season for basketball is quite awkward, with a bunch of tournaments in November, regular season games sprinkled in and then more tournaments and winter break in December. Making December the tournament month makes more sense.

Then pushing spring sports’ state competitions into June means they won’t conflict with school and you don’t have situations where kids miss gradation to play in the state tournament.

Sure baseball will be hotter since they like to play their tournament in the spring training sites in Phoenix but it’s a sport much more suited to summer than football.

The track and field state meet would be brutally hot in Mesa in June but that ought to be in Flagstaff or something anyway. If you think about it, Arizona is quite weird about its playoffs, putting a lot of winter sports’ State in cold places and spring sports’ State in hot places.

It’s football season against, so the focus should be on beating the opponent not the heat.

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