High school and junior high teams beginning football practice Monday sweated through the prospect of consistent triple-digit temperatures and heat indexes almost off the chart.
The training staff and coaches are paying as much attention to hydration as execution.
The new methods of addressing an traditional August issue with are both apparent at Conway’s football-playing high schools. Conway High has 120 players out from varsity football. Conway Christian has 22.
Size of the team matters little as far as adapting to brutal heat.
At every Conway High practice, members of the Conway Fire and Rescue and EMTS are on-hand to watch and administer IVs and other emergency procedures if an athlete has issues in dealing with the heat. At the
Wampus Cats’ initial practice Monday, most players appeared in good shape, and there we no issues.
"Seventy-nine percent of our team made every required workout during the summer," second-year CHS coach Clint Ashcraft said. "That’s one of the best percentages I’ve had with as team as a head coach. That
tells me the players want to get it done and most reported in pretty good shape.
"We also have six managers watching everything and we had water bottles lying around all over the field. Water is always a short distance away at any time the whole practice."
There are none of the traditional two-a-days for the Wampus Cats. They begin the practice at 7:30 and the first hour is indoors in meetings and film work.
"We finish practice at 11, the time it is just really getting hot," Ashcraft said. "You can get so much done during the summer now with 7-on-7 and conditioning. This summer, all our position coaches each
week watched film and conducted conditioning drills so we wouldn’t have to practice five or six hours a day. We think we are far enough along that we don’t have to practice all day in two-a-days. Everybody
has their philosophy, but we feel OK with one long practice. We think it keeps players fresher. The physical grind is obvious, but there’s a mental grind, too, to this."
Chuck Speer, the coach at Conway Christian, has opted for 6:30 p.m. practices this week but the team will have two-a-days next week at Camp Beaverfork.
"We have to do a lot of water breaks," he said. "Even starting at 6:30, it still could be 100 degrees. If you work out in the morning, it can get so darn humid. It’s probably not as hot as later, but it’s
still uncomfortable. And heat sickness can affect somebody for weeks. We have 22 senior high players and we need every single on of them. And we try to educate the parents on what their kids need to be
doing to prepare for practice."
Both coaches and their staff are monitoring the weight of their players daily.
Every Conway High player is weighed before and after practice. For every pound lost, the player has to consume 22 ounces of water or electrolyte drink the rest of the day.
"That just gets them back to where they started," Ashcraft said. "We encourage them to drink as much water as they can."
"We weigh our players also and if they lose two pounds between any weigh-in, we require them to drink more water and liquids until the weight gets back up," Speer said. "The bottom line is we all know we have to be real careful.
"And, when you have players thinking how hot they are or how tired they are, that’s when injuries can happen because players can lose concentration on what they’re doing."
"We really work hard on educating the players on what they should do," said Brooke Meins, trainer for the Conway team. "The good thing is the players are asking me what they need to do."