The heat and humidity in Alabama is always an issue as the first of August rolls around and preseason practice begins. Here are some ideas that will help keep your team safe as you prepare for the 2019 season.
Identify players who may be in more jeopardy for heat related issues. These would include your heavier athletes, students who may have transferred in late, been injured or not attended summer practices and conditioning sessions. Make sure coaches keep a special eye on these players and that they hydrate plenty during practice. Assign some coaches to check on these guys after practice is over.
Put a little money into your ability to provide hydration for your athletes. This is one thing that the medical field, parents and other boosters would be willing to donate some funds. Everyone wants players to be safe in the heat. Coolers, ice machines, watering stations, Gatorade, fans etc. increase the chances that your team won’t have a heat related problem.
Provide a cool area for the players to get out of the sun. This could be a tent, a pavilion area, a covered walkway or even just a shade tree. If you can include fans to blow air in that area, it will help reduce the temperature.
Encourage players to have as much skin showing as possible by lowering socks to expose calf muscles, not wearing tights and other long sleeve under garments.
Have your trainer or managers keep squirt bottles with ice water available on the field. They can walk around and give players a quick drink or a squirt of cold water in the face to help cool them off.
Counsel your players and their parents about hydration and talk constantly about the importance of replacing lost fluids with water and electrolyte drinks. A lot of heat issues in football are about an accumulation of days were fluids were not properly replaced and the athlete’s storehouse of fluids was low at the beginning of practice.
If possible, have the players weigh in before and after practice. if they are not maintaining their weight, chances are they are not replacing fluids.
Make as much water and sport drink available as possible after practice is over. If your locker room is not air conditioned, have fans available so they can sit in front of them and cool off.
Most cramping issues are about a loss of sodium. Educate players and parents and have some approved supplements available for players, especially those who have had issues in the past.
Make sure you have as many short water breaks in practice as possible.
Keep an eye on the humidity. Days where the humidity is high will mean that all players are more susceptible to heat issues. Have more breaks, shorten practice and conditioning drills, and keep an eye out for bigger athletes. Adjust practice so that an intense drill is followed by a walk through session.
If possible, have a tub available close to the field where you can fill it with ice and water to revive an athlete who appears to have heat issues. If he is suffering from heat illness, it is the quickest way to lower the body temperature. If no tub is available, have some towels stored in water and ice in an ice chest at the field.
Be aware of how many repetitions your athletes are getting during practice. Are they getting sufficient rest throughout the entire practice session? This is especially an issue for smaller schools where players play on both sides of the ball and on special teams as well. In preseason scrimmages, try and have players rotate and substitute as much as possible.
Make sure you have an emergency action plan and that everyone is aware of their role in executing it.
A few simple ideas and some planning ahead of time will hopefully allow your team to practice safely in the heat and humidity of August.