Tackling the Heat

JONESBORO, AR -- The start of football season is only weeks away and this week, many teams are hitting the practice fields to get ready. Every year, high school football practice kicks off during the hottest week of the year.

"It's a whole lot worse than it was this morning. This morning it was nice and cool, but it's pretty hot. I mean I've got sweat dripped everywhere, so it's hot," says Randal Ballew, a JHS junior football player.

With the average heat index hitting 100 degrees, JHS Head Coach Jim DeVazier says getting them used to the heat before practices starts up can be vital.

"Try to get them acclimated to the heat before practice. The ones that do that are obviously in much better shape than the ones that don't," says Coach Jim DeVazier.

Randal says he really tries to pay attention to what he puts in his body.

"Weeks and months before, I mean a month before you can change your entire diet and it can make a complete difference," says Ballew.

240 people die of heat related illnesses each year in the U.S. and Coach DeVazier says out here in the heat. They take those numbers seriously.

"We try to give them 3 or 4 breaks during the practice and they're welcome to run and get water pretty much anytime they want to. They run out of gas pretty quick. We try to look at that and see what the temperature's going to be that day and the humidity and make a judgment on our practice. We may cut time on our practice or we may cut certain drills out," says Coach DeVazier.

As these athletes try to tackle the temperatures and prepare for their upcoming season, they watch each other closely, like they would watch an opponent.

"I watch out for my teammates and I also watch out for myself. If somebody's getting really tired or getting down in their knees, I tell them to go get some water. The coaches they tell us the waters right there, just go get it," says Brandon Shelley, another JHS senior football player.

Most football teams try to structure their practice times around the heat. JHS practices at 9 A.M. and then again at 3:30 in the afternoon, both for about 2 hour sessions.