As temperatures rise, teams take precautionsJuly 17, 2018
By JONATHAN SAXON
The summer heat has been taking its toll on everyone across Dubois County, as some residents try to minimize (or avoid altogether) outdoor activities when the sun is at its highest and the humidity feels like walking around in a heavy wet towel.
But the summer season is also a time for area sports teams to start getting ready for the fall season at their respective schools. Team activities consist of strength and conditioning exercises at the moment, but later in July and August official practices will start up and with those activities comes exposure to the elements and a risk for dehydration.
But, these concerns are taken very seriously by everyone involved. Earlier this month, the Indiana House Enrolled Act 1024 — which requires all coaches to complete a course on heat preparedness by the Indiana High School Athletic Association every two years — went into effect. It is the latest in a collection of information that coaches are required to learn in order to be equipped to handle some of the safety issues that could go along with participating in sports (coaches also take courses on concussion awareness and sudden cardiac arrest).
Some of the information is nothing that’s totally new and unheard of: hydrate plenty, common signs of heat stroke, and things of that nature. But, there are also helpful guidelines as it relates to the weather’s heat index and how much activity should, or should not, take place based on the day’s heat measurements.
Southridge football coach Scott Buening, who has been working on strength and conditioning routines with the Raiders four times a week in the mornings, is all for any information that coaches can learn in order to help the kids be better and safer in the sports they play throughout the season.
“Anything that improves our game and makes it better is a positive thing,” he said. “A lot of it is things you already know, but not everybody knows all of that stuff. Some people think it’s a little much, but I don’t agree. If you’ve ever been around someone who suffered from heat issues, it’s not something you want to be a part of. The more we know and the more preparation we do beforehand...it brought a lot of information and awareness.”
Buening believes that the most important thing the coaches and parents of athletes can do is encourage a healthy habit of hydration throughout the day. Kids shouldn’t wait until practice or games to start taking in fluids; if you wait until the parched feeling comes upon you, you’ve already put yourself at risk.
“When you get thirsty, that’s too late. You shouldn’t get to the point where you are thirsty,” he said.
Jasper cross country coach Kevin Schipp echoed those same sentiments.
“(We) educate the kids to make sure they’re staying hydrated throughout the day,” he said. “We watch how (the runners) are feeling and know the conditions so the kids don’t get to the point where they’re having heat-related problems.”
One of the things Schipp likes to do during the summer is plan for workouts to start around 6 a.m. when they day is still cool and the sun has not fully come out yet. But for days when they cannot avoid the heat, such as when the team has practice after school, he and the coaches will modify the length and intensity of the workouts as well as build in a lot of water breaks.
“(We’ll have) more breaks to help kids cool down and hydrate, so you don’t have a long and extended time of high activity,” said Schipp.
One thing that is key for the coaches is being in tune with the kids on their team, in terms of knowing their physical limits and their personalities. Teens, like everyone else, can sometimes be stubborn when it comes to doing what is good for them, and that characteristic can be heightened in sports.
Some athletes simply want to prove how tough they are when compared to their peers, others are swayed because competition for playing time is fierce. So coaches must keep a watchful eye on when their athletes are pushing themselves to the limit, and be willing to step in and save the kids from themselves if necessary.
Schipp said that he doesn’t encounter that kind of attitude a lot in cross country, but one thing he always harps on is for the kids to get their necessary sleep so that their bodies are better able to recover and function within the heat.
“Taking care of your whole body will help you handle the heat in situations like that a little better,” he said.
But for Buening, he has makes it a point to remind the boys playing football that going to get water and taking care of themselves has nothing to do with their masculinity. There water carts and coolers all over the field for a reason, and he tells them to speak up if they are feeling any ill effects during practice or workouts. Because when it’s all said and done sports are supposed to be fun and filled with teachable moments. But coaches and teams must be smart about how they approach their activities in the heat, before something fun turns into an episode at the hospital.
“Our kids are tough, hard-nosed kids that want to practice,” Buening said. “But on the other hand, we’ve also encouraged them if they start feeling a bit lightheaded or whatever, tell us. Let us know. It’s not a statement on your manliness.”
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