OKEECHOBEE -- On the first day of school in Okeechobee County the heat index reached nearly 120 degrees. That kind of heat can feel oppressive just walking outside, but it adds another layer of adversity for football teams practicing in the area.
“It’s been really hot,” said OHS sophomore Fred Hill. “We’re getting used to it and conditioned to it, because it’s going to be like this in games too.”
To deal with the heat coaches have started moving practices to earlier or later in the day to avoid the midday highs. Increased water breaks are becoming more common to help athletes stay hydrated before, during, and after all practices and competitions.
The National Weather Service has issued heat alerts in Florida 50 times since June. In July the water temperature near the Florida keys hit “hot tub temperature”, reaching 101.1 degrees Fahrenheit.
“I’ve reached out to some of the guys I’ve coached with in Texas and Arkansas and they’re going through the same thing,” said Brahman football coach BJ Pryor. “You have to make adjustments. We had extra water out there and if they got hot we took the shoulder pads off and made them sit in the shade. You have to adjust to it because on gameday it could be just like this.”
During Okeechobee's practice on Aug. 12, the team brought out a tent to provide shade for players during breaks. The team may also start bringing out an ice bucket for players to get into to cool down.
“Adjustments have been made and we’re going to have to keep monitoring it,” explained Pryor.
The Florida High School Athletic Association requires all coaches in the state to compete a course on heat acclimation and heat illness prevention created by the National Federation of State High School Associations. Some of the priorities taught in the course include: