Region 8 football teams change practices to deal with heat

By Josh Harvison - bio | email

TRUMANN, AR (KAIT) – High school football coaches throughout Region 8 are changing tactics on how they prepare for the upcoming season. Several schools have decided to abandon two-a-day practices and have one extended practice each day to deal with oppressive temperatures. In Trumann, coaches said Tuesday they'd rather have the traditional two-a-day practice.

"We're going to stick with what we do. The practices aren't very long, but our kids are upbeat and running around, and our kids seem pretty acclimated. Most of them, you know, either work or whatever, and a lot of them make all twelve of our summer workouts," said Greg White, Head Coach of the Trumann Wildcats.

White said many of his players who participated in summer workouts are accustomed to higher temperatures. He said the players who didn't do much physical activity this summer will struggle more for the first several practices.

"We talked about that yesterday, and I really can't remember. I think yesterday afternoon was the hottest as a coach I know," said White, who has coached for more than 15 years.

White also played for the Wildcats when he was a teenager. He said he only remembers a few instances where he had to play in triple digit temperatures.

"I don't think it made us any better back in the day when we didn't get water. We're not going to deny any kid water, and you noticed we let our kids go to the cooler when they needed, as long as they don't miss a drill," said White.

"At that particular time, those kids were more acclimated to the heat. Everybody didn't have air conditioning then. Now we're all used to air conditioning, and the heat is really rougher on kids now then it was. It's not that they're not better athletes," said Superintendent Joe Waleszonia. "Back when I first started coaching, we didn't let them have anything. You went an hour and a half, and you didn't get anything. You were kind of a sissy if you drank anything."

Waleszonia started his coaching career in the junior high ranks. He said the hottest day he can remember coaching was 103 in full pads with players wearing black helmets and shirts.

"The trend is changing and the scientific fact is that they need to be hydrated," said Waleszonia. "I think our coaches are smart enough to know that you don't have to get everything done this week. They do have a long time until their first football game."

Waleszonia said practices have been scaled down and players are given regular water breaks. White said players still accomplish their goals during practices.

"I think it makes for a more efficient practice because you know a kid's attention span is not that long anyway, and you give them about 15 minutes, give them a little break, go another 15 minutes. That's really good teaching practice," said Waleszonia.

"I play baseball during the summer, so that helps me. And, then we have football practices throughout the summer, so that also helps," said Anthony Rusher, a senior who plays receiver and cornerback. "The mornings aren't as fun, but it's part of the game."

Rusher said sometimes players get sick during practice, but when it's hot outside, players get their share of hydration.

"I usually just go home and drink water the whole time," said Rusher in between Tuesday practices.

"There's nothing I don't like about it. I like it all. I even like being out here in this heat just being with my friends. It's my senior year and there are high expectations coming from this town," said Dustin Miller, quarterback and running back.

Miller said he's more accustomed to the heat because he works in it every summer.

"I was out in the sun all summer working on the farm, and I like to be out playing basketball and being out. I love the outdoors," said Miller. "It's hard on the big boys like our lineman, you know? They're carrying a little bit more weight than we are. Us little boys, we get around a lot easier, but they have just as much fun as we do. We come out here and work hard and get what we need to get done."

Doctors said the searing summer temperatures this week are filling up emergency rooms.

"We've had an increase in the number of people that show up to the emergency room that have other disease processes that have been exacerbated by the heat," said Dr. Shane Speights. "The increased risk for these high school football players particularly is the first several weeks which is usually why the football coaches will maybe start off with just helmets before they actually go to full pads."

Speights emphasized that coaches and players need to monitor weather conditions and temperature forecasts so they can adapt their practice schedule accordingly.

"Most of these heat related illnesses that get that severe where we have multiple organ failure and near death experiences, passing out episodes, we can usually find over the last week or so things that weren't done right," said Speights.

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