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Friday, Dec. 19, 2014

Beating the heat: Coaches continue never-ending battle with summer temperatures

Sunday, August 13, 2006

(Photo)
Sikeston football player Joe Moore takes a break from practice to cool down.
SIKESTON -- Each year tragedy strikes the sporting world with heat-related deaths.

From high schools to the professional ranks, no athlete is immune to it.

That's why Sikeston High School coaches take extra precautions in making sure their athletes are in no danger out on the practice fields during the dog days of August.

"It's always a concern," said Sikeston football coach Jerry Dement. "The welfare of your players is the primary concern for any coach. It's not any hotter or more humid than it's ever been in Southeast Missouri at this time of the year. You always have days where it's miserable -- it's August and it's always been like this. You just have to use common sense and give them extra water and try to avoid the hottest parts of the day. You've got to know when to back off and when to give extra water."

Football is the most susceptible to heat-related problems with the equipment players are required to wear. When a football player has on full pads, from helmets, to shoulder pads and jerseys to the pants, which are stuffed with pads, an athlete is required to carry a lot of extra weight.

"Obviously wearing all that gear during this time of the year is tougher," said Dement. "Football is for the toughest kids. They have to wear all that gear, especially the helmets. You just have to keep the communication lines open with the kids. Ask them how they're feeling and make sure they are aware of things."

But football isn't the only sport that can be dangerous. Sikeston's softball and soccer teams also practice in the heat. While those sports don't require the athletes to wear heavy equipment, the danger is just as real.

"You just have to be aware of your surroundings and what the kids are going through," said Sikeston soccer coach Derrick Long. "You have to give them more water breaks and more rest and let them sit in the shade a little bit. It's not bad though. I don't mind it. You can sit them down in the shade and do a lot of your technical stuff, talk to them and get a lot of that out of the way. Then when it gets cooler we can start working more."

Long said in his coaching career he's never had a problem, but that doesn't make him any less concerned about it.

"We've been pretty lucky," said Long. "I tell them right off if they start getting light-headed or if anytime they need to go over and get a drink to just let me know because you hear of things going on around the world every year with somebody getting injured or dying. That's just the worst thing that could ever happen so if we don't go into that first game in the best shape as we would've if it were cool, it's not the end of the world. We're just trying to get in the best shape that we can and take a lot of water breaks."

On the softball field, Bulldog coach Tiffany King tried to beat the heat by having early morning practices.

"We were having practices early in the morning before the heat hit, but now that we're having afternoon practices we just try to keep them hydrated as much as possible and giving them drinks every 20 to 25 minutes," said King. "I let them know that if they need a drink or they're feeling weak that they can go hydrate and sit in the dugout."

But King also stresses the importance of staying hydrated away from the practice field.

"When we were having two-a-day practices I informed them how important it was to make sure that after morning practice they just didn't go home and sit in the air conditioner all day and then come back out into the extreme heat," said King. "I tell them to drink Gatorades and stay away from sodas so they can keep their carbohydrates up and to watch what they eat for lunch."

But for Dement, keeping kids safe from the elements involves much more than coaches looking after them, but making sure the kids are educated in the matter.

"The main thing is you have to educate your kids about hydrating themselves all day and not just during practice," said Dement. "They have to fill their bodies full of fluids all day."