Student-athletes practice in oppressive heat; coaches use tools to make tough calls

Published: Aug. 8, 2023 at 8:06 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Student-athletes are practicing in this record-breaking heat, and coaches must make some tough calls.

The state requires coaches to use a tool that tells them when it might be time to take a time out.

There’s nothing easy about practicing for all football in the Big Easy.

“I have never seen this consistency of the 100-degree temperatures,” said Head Coach JT Curtis, John Curtis Christian School.

Coach JT Curtis said his team’s practice season kicked off this week.

“The acclimation period is so important, and that’s what we’re in right now with the LSSAA acclimation period for three days,” Coach Curtis said.

He said during the acclimation period players can practice in shoulder pads and a helmet but not full gear giving your body time to get used to the heat.

The coach said his kids are already somewhat adjusted from the conditioning and training they did over the summer.

“Our culprit is air conditioning. Our benefit is air conditioning,” said Coach Curtis. “The only way to get acclimated is to be in the heat.”

John Curtis Christian School along with all athletic programs in the state base rules and regulations off of the WetBulb Globe Temperature (WGBT), a tool that takes into account temperature, humidity, wind speed, sun angle, and cloud coverage in your location.

“Once that wet ball temperature gets to a dangerous level it will send a text message to our coaching staff and to us as well and on there, we have our protocols. So, we’ll have a protocol if it’s over a certain amount practice can’t last more than two hours, another one if it gets to a certain amount no pads, hour long practice and break every 20 minutes,” said Jeff Berger, Athletic Trainer at John Curtis Christian School.

This is made possible through a satellite.

“We’re dealing with people’s children. With people’s loved ones,” Berger said.

Athletic Trainer Jeff Berger said kids need to be drinking water constantly; that includes at night, in the morning before practice, and during practice.

“You can do everything right. Your kids can do everything right but, in this temperature, or in any situation things happen,” said Berger.

It’s hot enough just standing outside and then you add jerseys, helmets, shoulder pads on top of turf all while doing intense exercise. Needless to say, athletes need to do more than just stay hydrated.

Berger said student athletes need rest and a balanced diet that includes protein, green leafy vegetables and fruits. He said they do provide meal prep tips for the kids.

“You need to make sure your sodium, your potassium, your magnesium and that stuff comes from more than just a sports drink,” Berger said.

John Curtis football players are out on the field before 7 a.m. and off the field around 9 a.m. to avoid heat as much as possible.

They also have an Emergency Action Plan in place just in case.

“We have a tub filled with water and we have ice ready in case we need to submerge the athlete and get their core body temperature down to a safe level. We have equipment to take accurate core temperature,” Berger said.

Coach Curtis said it’s a team effort between the athlete, coaches, and parents.

He said there will also be extra water breaks built into the games in September.

As provided to Fox 8 by BESE, the broad requirements pertaining to WBGT are in state law, R.S. 40.1087.1 (Act 259/2020):

BESE said, “The corresponding BESE policy (Bulletin 135 §507) aligns with the law and was promulgated in April 2021. There have been no related revisions to the BESE policy since that time. The LA High School Athletic Association (LHSAA) administrates/enforces regulations for high school athletics.”

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