Even though the rain had cooled things off, the mugginess that followed had my size 4X shirt drenched in sweat. She wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to pass out.
The heat has been brutal this summer, starting in early June and not showing any signs of letting up as the local teams prepare for the fall sports season.
With an Associated Press story out of Jackson, Miss., Friday reporting, “Extreme temperatures continued Thursday across a large swath of the country, killing more than a dozen people, at least two police dogs and likely contributing to the death of Franklin the rhinoceros at a Mississippi zoo. Arkansas fire departments were volunteering to hose down overheated cattle, and people as far north as Maine were trying to stay cool.”
Metro Nashville schools’ outdoor sports weren’t allowed to practice between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. for three days this past week because of the soaring temperatures in our state capital.
Locally, some of our high school coaches have chosen to try to beat the heat with either early morning or evening practices. Some days the outdoors have been abandoned for the cool of the gym’s air conditioning.
“It’s not worth the risk of having someone pass out or worse,” Bear head coach Damon Floyd said to me earlier this week. “I know it’s going to be hot for our first few games and we want our guys to be conditioned for that, but this heat has been too dangerous to be out in.”
A longtime veteran of the coaching ranks agrees, “We used to not allow players to drink water during practice and fed them salt pills, but I learned early on that wasn’t the right way to do it,” former Polk County head coach Larry Davis, who started coaching back in the 1960s, said.
I remember those salt tablets, and also being called names I won’t repeat here if you wanted some water during the scorching August two-a-days.
Back then the thought was those coaching tactics toughened you up and helped to get you into shape. It also served to weed out those who weren’t tough enough to make the team.
What it did was make you woozy, dizzy and sick, not to mention the headaches that resulted.
With several heat exhaustion and stroke cases in recent years being attributed to dehydration, the coaching mentality has changed and the benefits of water and sports drinks are being touted to enhance player performance.
While conditioning and getting in playing shape is important (just ask Albert Haynesworth), making sure you are not depriving your body of essential fluids has been shown to help a player reach peak performance levels.
A couple of years ago the TSSAA ruled when the heat index reaches 104 degrees, practice or games must cease until the mercury drops.
Teams now have meters to measure the heat index, but like anything else its use can be manipulated, depending on whether the reading is taken in the direct sunlight or shade.
There is no way for the TSSAA to monitor every practice, so the schools are left to police themselves. While every coach wants to get in as much practice time as possible, the safety of the players must be the first concern.
Don’t be surprised if some of the football and soccer contests during August aren’t able to begin at the scheduled start times due to having to let things cool off as the sun sets.
While setting on those hot metal bleachers won’t be comfortable, imagine having to be out on the field (especially in football pads), trying to compete to the best of your ability in those oven-like conditions.
Coach Floyd and some others would like to see the high school schedules pushed back to a September start date.
“The bye week can be cut out and we could play until the first week of November,” the Bear mentor related. “As a coach I don’t like that week in the middle of the season that you practice but don’t have a game. It takes you out of your rhythm.”
“The way it is now you have to get your players conditioned to play in the heat for the first few games before things begin to cool off,” he added.
I wholeheartedly agree. Starting to practice in pads in July is ridiculous. Playing three football games before Labor Day is mind-boggling.
I know the football playoffs go through November and the state championship games are in early December, sometimes played in snow and cold, but that is just a few teams involved.
Playing games two weeks before the end of August involves a vast majority of the teams in the state.
Whatever happened to going to school from Labor Day until Memorial Day and having a real summer vacation?