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My Son’s Coach Is Making Him Wear Pads In 100 Degree Heat — What Can I Do?

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I have really been feeling the heat lately, both literally and figuratively.

It began when I travelled to the steambath that was Williamsburg, Virginia last weekend to give two talks to over 1,000 parents of some of the most elite high school football players in the nation attending a four-day training camp, and the heat didn't let up when I returned to my office this week.

The heat index in Virginia was almost off the charts. By day three the heat index had peaked at 123 degrees F. The temperature on the artificial turf fields where the kids were practicing and playing was, of course, even higher, reaching 144 at one point. This truly was no place for a youth sport health and safety advocate like me to be standing (although not for long; after standing on the sidelines for 15 minutes, I retreated to the safety and comfort of an air conditioned car and hotel lobby).iHydrate screen shot

Or maybe it was.

To be honest, I had given serious thought to cancelling my trip because, as one who has consistently advised sports parents visiting MomsTeam to cancel or modify youth sports practices and games when the heat index is dangerously high, as I knew it would be last weekend in Virginia, I didn't want to be seen as giving the thumbs up to exactly that; in other words, to talking the talk, but not walking the walk.

But I ended up going in part because I was interested in hearing from the moms and dads of the nation's elite high school football players - all on track for Division I schools - why there prepared to let their sons play football in such heat, and, of course, because I had promised the organizers that I would put on two parent seminars. As it turned out, the trip and my talks were a big success. While some of the parents expressed concern for their sons' safety playing in such oppressive heat, as far as I am aware, no athlete suffered heat stroke, fortunately.

But I continued to feel the heat even when I returned to the office this week, but this time the heat was coming from concerned parents. My voice mailbox was chock full of messages from parents frantically calling from all around the country, all asking variations on the same question: "My son was told they would be playing in pads (football) tonight and it is already 100 degrees in the shade where we are in Oklahoma. What should I do? He won't make the team if he cannot try out." I tried my best to answer all the phone calls, which were coming in at a rate of at least one an hour,  and to respond to e-mails and Facebook posts, all asking how they could keep their kids safe in the high heat.

The problem was that I was becoming as hot and bothered as the parents. On the one hand, I knew that MomsTeam had the very best and most comprehensive Hydration Center on the Internet with some of the country's top hydration experts in the world who review and guide us to give out the most accurate up-to-date information. On the other, it seemed that, no matter how much information we provide, no matter how often coaches and programs are warned against the dangers of playing sports when the heat index soars, too many (with rare exceptions, such as the recent Schwan's USA Cup youth soccer tournament) continue holding practices and games without frequent hydration breaks, or having the ice baths on hand to rapidly cool down players if they suffer heat stroke. Either they haven't been properly educated about hydration and heat illness (which given the highly publicized deaths of high school and professional athletes is hard to fathom) or they stubbornly cling to the old school belief and macho culture that still pervades youth sports - especially in contact and collision sports like football and lacrosse - that forcing players to practice in excessively high heat somehow toughens them up and makes them better athletes, subscribing, I guess, to the old adage, "What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger."

Knowlege is power

So how do I answer the parent phone calls and e-mails? By letting them know about the guidelines many state athletic associations and programs have put in place in recent years to try to keep kids safe playing and practicing football and other sports outdoors in the heat and humidity gripping the country. I suggest that they share the link for the articles to all of their Facebook friends and to print up copies to give to the coaching staff and other parents.

Knowledge, it is often said, is power. Our mission at MomsTeam, as it has been for the past eleven years, is to empower sports parents through education. We know that more and more parents are listening. Ultimately, though, it is up to the parents to turn the heat up on the coaches so they don't do the same to their kids. If they don't, we'll all be scrambling to put out the inevitable, but preventable, fires.


One thing parents can do to

One thing parents can do to "get ready" for this situation is to encourage their kid to get off the couch, out of the air conditioning. Many, many kids get sick not from football practice, but just being outside for more than 10 minutes. Bodies can acclimate to hot (and cold) conditions. Believe it or not most people didn't have air conditioning 40-50+ years ago. People work outside all day, even today.
Also, as a parent, if you are concerned, instead of piling on the coach at the first kid that gets sick, offer to put together water stations, ice baths so these things are ready if something happens.

Great post here is my thoughts

You are absolutely correct, all to often the person is not properly prepared to deal with the heat.  They are not properly hydrated before they venture out into the world. 

Every year people die in because they did not prepare to survive in extreme conditions.   Here we start football in the heat of summer, and if you make the playoffs we end in the cold of winter. 

Kids today are too soft, and as a parent I am just as much to blame as anyone.   It would be nice to be able kick them out in the morning let the play outside and drink out of the hose as we did only coming home for lunch.  Instead they are allowed to play video games and sit in air conditioned houses eating and drinking what they want.  Most kids who are ill during practice are sick because they are out of shape and not properly hydrated before practice.

As a coach, hydration starts at home as most athletes do not intake enough fluids through out the day and by practice time are already behind the curve.  It starts with waking early eating a good meal and drinking plenty of water or juice.  Then water all day with no soda or sports drinks and keep the extra salt and junk food to a minimum.

The Institute of Medicine determined that an adequate intake for men is roughly 3 liters (about 13 cups) of total beverages a day. The AI for women is 2.2 liters (about 9 cups) of total beverages a day.

Young athletes should be drinking as much as an adult male though out the day, and have 8-10 ounces at least an hour before practice.  Then a good coaching staff will break every 15-20 minutes to allow the athletes to "keep up with hydration."  Notice this is not to get hydrated but just to stay even.  Non carbonated sports drinks  are suggested to replenish minerals.  

 When done with practice the athlete should continue to drink more water until you are no longer thirsty and then drink a bit more.

By preparing you Athlete early and by the coach helping to maintain hydration there is no reason why the athlete should have to worry about the heat.  This is not to say that they wont be uncomfortable, do not confuse comfort with danger.

 If your team does not already have a hydration station or you observe athletes with less than adequate hydration during practice talk to your coach and your team mom. Any good coach should address the need for good hydration practices early and often to parents and players. 

Being pro-active in helping the coach keep kids safe

Great suggestions! Adjusting to the heat is key. Here's an article about the NATA guidelines on pre-season acclimatization for all the football parents out there.