Back from vacation, thoughts today concern fall sports in Maine and the associated preparation on the various playing fields in the area.

There’ s nothing quite like fall sports in New England. The air is crisp — don’ t worry I’ m not wishing summer’ s demise — and people here love fall.

Problem is, sports teams do their hardest work when the sun in the sky may be giving out its hottest temperatures, making preseason work often a dangerous thing.

I had the good fortune years ago to serve one school district in Indiana as an assistant football coach. OK. I can hear the boo birds out there, but I did learn a lot. The obvious lessons which came my way under head coach Jim Robertson were football-related.

I also learned some valuable preseason knowledge which I took with me into preparation for long basketball seasons.

In Maine, August can be a brutal month for outdoor practice.

Having said that, I repeat here some of what I learned back in Indiana from an experienced coach such as Robertson.

We, our beloved Boston Terriers, began our morning practice sessions at 8 a.m. School days in the Hoosier state began in mid-August. And make no mistake about it: Temps reached 100 degrees out there by noon. We always started football about Aug. 1.

According to a recent University of Michigan report, “the best way to prevent dehydration is to maintain body fluid levels by drinking plenty of fluids before, during, and after a workout.

And we did.

Jim was a smart guy, and when it was hot, we often did not return to a second practice that evening. He also encouraged — demanded, actually — that all our participants weigh themselves before and after practice. Stripped down to their shorts, it became part of the routine.

Weighing in and weighing out were important parts of my job.

If the kids had lost a little weight during the session, our rule was this: For every pound — 16 ounces — lost, they were required to drink 2 cups, or 16 ounces, to replace that loss.

One of the problems with fluid replacement in hot weather is centered around water breaks given during the entire process. Some coaches used to think that fluid replacement and withholding water were a test of endurance.

According to the Michigan study, regardless of the sport, kids should break for fluids every 15-30 minutes. That was my hoop rule.

What does Michigan say about all this hydration? They take it a step further.

The folks at UM even check urine color. If a participant’ s urine is a dark gold like apple juice, he or she is dehydrated.

If urine color is like pale lemonade, the participant is okay.

I feel fortunate to have studied under a guy like Jim.

The operative word here is caution by all participants, and, of course, paying attention to what the weather people have to say the night before a practice.

30-Second Time Out

In Red Sox Nation, I think people are reacting to the Manny Ramirez situation all wrong.

From this corner, the former Sox slugger is slowly making his way to the New York Yankee outfield via a two-month stay in Los Angeles.

Manny’ s a lot of things, but he certainly is not stupid. A free agent at the end of the 2008 season, he will get his four-year deal and his 100 million in the offseason.