With the prep softball season underway and teams continuing to practice for the upcoming football season, the heat has already been one of the biggest opponents these teams will face.
For football teams, the squads have nearly wrapped up two weeks of practice in helmets and shoulder pads, but the heat looks to add another element to practices this week.
According to the National Weather Service, a heat advisory will be in effect Tuesday from noon to 8 p.m. With a heat index near 106 degrees, Coosa head coach Todd Wheeler takes the precautions he must follow for his team seriously.
“We give them breaks as much as we can and get their helmets off of them to let the heat out,” Wheeler said.
Players also have access to cooling towels, which are made of a special material that holds in the cold, and a cooling station with two 150-gallon tanks.
“Anybody that overheats, we can sink them in the water and ice them down,” Wheeler said. “It is dangerous, and you just have to be smart with it.”
Wednesday’s forecast predicts a high near 93 degrees with a heat index as high as 103.
One of the main ways teams keep track of the heat is with a wet bulb globe temperature device, which is required by the Georgia High School Association.
The devices must be used during each practice to ensure that the written policy is being followed properly. WBGT readings are supposed to be taken every hour, beginning 30 minutes before the beginning of practice.
The highest WBGT reading seen at Coosa’s practice Monday was 90. With a reading that high, the maximum practice time allowed by the GHSA is one hour and there may be no conditioning activities. For all other sports, including softball, there also must be 20 minutes of breaks throughout the hour of practice.
A WBGT reading of 92 is comparable to a heat index reading of 104 to 105 degrees and no outdoor workouts are allowed, according to the GHSA guidelines.
In those instances, Wheeler said you just have to work around the hottest part of the day.
“You either go late at night in the evening or you just modify as much as you can,” Wheeler said. “It’s really tough when you’ve got a young football team. When you’ve got an old, salty football team, they’re used it, they figure it out and they know how to practice in it. With a young team, sometimes it’s like pulling teeth.”
Still, Wheeler and his staff work closely with athletic trainer Ashley Whelchel to keep a check on both the temperature and the players when extreme heat arrives.
It’s not just football teams affected by the extreme heat. With softball season already underway, those coaches also have to be aware of the dangers of their players getting too hot.
Armuchee head coach Shane Arp said sometimes there’s just nothing you can do when it’s too hot outside but move inside.
“You think it’s not that bad and that you’re prepared for it,” Arp said. “But it’s going to take its toll on you, especially day in and day out.”
Arp said he emphasizes the importance of hydration to his team, not only while they’re in the heat or just before they go outside, but weeks in advance, to prepare themselves for the brutal heat of the summer months.
“You have to prepare yourself,” Arp said. “We have to be smart. We’re never going to put our kids in a dangerous situation. We’re always going to err on the side of caution.”