Hundreds of football teams across Tennessee, including Cannon County, will hit the field for the start of preseason camp Monday and while coaches are watching their players' progress, they also will be watching the heat.
An increase of heat-related injuries and, in some instances death, on college and high school fields in the last decade has brought a greater awareness to hydrating players and keeping them safe against high temperatures during workouts that occur during intense heat.
Players at Cannon County will receive somewhat of a reprieve from the smothering heat that has blanketed the Mid-state in recent days as the high Monday and Tuesday - the first two days of camp - is expected to reach the mid-to-upper 80s before heating back into the 90s later in the week.
Lions Head Coach Joel Schrenk says his coaches monitor heat index throughout practices and he stresses hydration and proper care to his players not only when they are attending workouts, but also throughout the day and evening.
"We push fluids because when you feel you are thirsty it is too late," Schrenk said. "Today's fluids are yesterday's intake and I think we have taught our players that. They know that. Being in good shape is so important and they have to take care of their bodies. (The heat) is definitely something that is on our minds."
The TSSAA has a heat policy for all its member schools. The policy is the minimum standard member schools must follow and it prohibits schools from practicing or competing when the heat index at the location of the activity is in excess of 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
"My first 12 years of coaching were in Alabama so 98 degrees with 95 percent humidity was the norm," Schrenk said. "A couple of the guys I worked for didn't give water breaks but if the player wanted water he could stop and get it at any time, and that's what we do here. Water is available at all times and we have it all around so the players have access whenever they want it and we stress the hydration."
According to the SUNY Youth Sports Institute, athletes should drink 16 ounces of water or sports drink 1-to-2 hours before practice and it should be repeated 15 minutes before the start of the workout. Proper preparation and hydration not only helps athletes avoid dehydration and heat injury but also speeds recovery after exercise and improves performance during exercise.
Football players are especially prone to dehydration, according to the Institute, which says the extreme physical demands of the sport combined with the required equipment predispose a football player to have a higher body temperature and sweat more. The helmet, shoulder pads, and other padding act as insulation, keeping the heat close to the body and increasing fluid losses from sweat. It is not uncommon for football players to lose between five and seven pounds during a single practice. Even with careful monitoring, it is difficult for players to replace all of the fluid prior to the next practice.
Sophomore Brandon James says Schrenk and the Lions staff impress upon the players the need for proper care and hydration.
"Every day Coach Schrenk tells us to stay hydrated, eat well and stay healthy," James said. "He really pays attention to that part of it and makes us aware of it and why we need to take care of our bodies and drink plenty of fluids and to also eat the right things."
As most good coaches do, Schrenk has a plan - for beating the opposition ... and the heat.