With the heat index creeping into triple digits, high school coaches in the area have to get creative to avoid putting players in dangerous positions while preparing for the 2016 fall sports season.
If that means waiting for the sun to set and turning on the stadium lights, so be it. That’s what Tates Creek football coach Antoine Sims did with his team Wednesday night.
The Commodores originally were going to practice at 6 p.m. but postponed it to 9 because of expected high temperatures. Rain passed through the area Wednesday, cooling things down to 73 degrees by the time Creek took the field.
“About this time on Friday night come August, you either go home a winner or loser,” Sims said near the end of practice. “We’re trying to just beat the heat a little bit. ... It’s actually kind of a cool night; the humidity’s up a little bit but they gotta work through it.”
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Tates Creek’s girls’ soccer team practiced into the night as well, finishing Wednesday just as football began. Finding time to practice can be conducted without worrying as much about the sun is even tougher when you’re trying to negotiate field space with fellow coaches.
Link: KHSAA Heat Index Calculation Chart
“When you’re having to share the field with several other sports teams, it’s important that we work together and try to find a common goal,” Sims said. “At the start of practice, we had to share half the field with the (girls’) soccer team. ... They deserve their amount of time as much as we do.”
Most area teams are conducting practices during the morning — finishing before 11 — or late evening. Bryan Station hosted a 7-on-7 scrimmage attended by Lexington Catholic, Lexington Christian and Taylor County on Thursday morning. The foursome started at 8:50 a.m. and finished about 10:45.
Those sort of practices not only help teams combat the heat but also produce game-like situations.
“It’s good to work and see other defenses as far as 7-on-7,” Bryan Station Coach Frank Parks said. “ ... It’s great for the kids because they don’t have to go up against each other.”
Lexington Catholic Coach Mark Perry planned to give his team a day off Friday. The forecast called for a possible heat index pushing 100.
Stay up to speed on the heat with Chris Bailey’s weather blog.
“It’s OK, when it’s 95 degrees, to let your body recover,” Perry said. “It’s gonna be hot, the heat index is gonna be up, there’s no reason (to practice). We’ll come back Monday ready to roll.”
Taylor County Coach Dudley Hilton, who’s in his 42nd season coaching and is second in all-time wins, said the heat “no question” improves players’ conditioning more quickly but you can’t overdo it or cross the legal boundaries (the KHSAA does not allow teams to practice or play when the heat index is at 104 or higher).
As with their in-game schemes, coaches have to call audibles when it comes to practice.
“Coaches used to say 3 o’clock in the afternoon and that’s when you were going to practice, no matter what,” Hilton said. “... You used to not have to make adjustments but now you’ve gotta make adjustments as coaches. And you’ve gotta make sure you keep plenty of water around.”
Tates Creek kept plenty of water around on Tuesday. After high temperatures prevented them from hitting the field, the Commodores attended a local pool to work on their conditioning.
“We went up there and tried to run a couple laps (in the water),” Sims said with a grin. “The problem with running laps was there was a swim meet going on and we created a current that was sucking the swimmers under after putting 90 guys in the swimming pool. ...
“If it proves to be effective we might look into doing it later on down the road. As long as the weather and the humidity and the temperature’s gonna be up, we gotta look for different options. I can’t just cancel practice and not get anything out of it.”
Coming Aug. 19
The Herald-Leader will publish its annual high school football preview section. The 2016 season kicks off that night.