Prep football players keeping their cool
August 24, 2003
Normally, high school football players throughout the Pacific are enduring two-a-day practices this time of year, interspersed with water breaks every 15 or 20 minutes, finding shade under a tree, dashing under a sprinkler — anything to beat the heat.
This summer, heat has not been a big issue, particularly in Japan, which has had unseasonably mild temperatures and lots of rain since Japan League teams began workouts Aug. 11.
“Heat hasn’t been a factor this year,” second-year Zama American coach Ron Geist said.
Average high temperatures have been in the high 70s to low 80s, about 10 degrees cooler than last summer. And while Japanese meteorologists declared Aug. 2 the end of the summer rainy season, precipitation continued through the first two weeks of workouts.
“It’s rained every day but two days during two-a-day practices,” Nile C. Kinnick coach Robert Stovall, now in his 10th season, said Thursday.
More seasonable weather reappeared Friday in Japan and Korea, where temperatures peaked in the mid-80s.
“I prefer to have hot weather during two-a-days, then have cooler weather when we’re in shape,” Stovall said. “We normally spend time on the weather station hill running and conditioning. We’re ahead on skills and execution, but we’re behind on conditioning, and that could be a problem for us.”
Similar weather patterns have affected South Korea, where Seoul American, Osan American and Taegu American are gearing up for their first season under the Department of Defense Dependents Schools umbrella, after being run by youth activities since 1978.
Daytime highs have ranged between 77 and 82 degrees the past week, punctuated by plenty of rainfall.
Like their counterparts in Japan and Okinawa, Korea teams have been conditioning the past two weeks and will practice in pads on Monday. Guam’s Interscholastic League won’t start until Sept. 27.
Even Okinawa has escaped the customary brutal heat of an island summer. High temperatures have averaged 89, but strong southerly breezes are making practices, which began Monday, more bearable.
“It was horrible last year,” said Kadena Buccaneers senior quarterback A.J. Morgan. “This year, we’ve had the clouds cover up the sun and plenty of breeze. We’ve been very fortunate.”
Still, the sheer potential for uncomfortable days spurs Okinawa coaches to take no chances. The heat could return at any time — with a vengeance.
“The weather has changed. It’s comfortable, but you never know,” 14th-year Kubasaki Shogun coach Charles Burns said. “The wind could shift, the humidity could return and we could get the blast furnace again.”
Stories from the United States about players dropping from the heat, such as the death of offensive lineman Korey Stringer during Minnesota Vikings training camp in 2001, are a “major concern for us,” said Buccaneers coach Brian Wetherington, entering his fourth year at the school.
“We hydrate like crazy,” said Burns. “We schedule six to seven water breaks, every 15-20 minutes. We’ll also turn on the sprinklers; that cold water will cool them off. Sometimes, we’ll put them under the shade of a tree.
“And we tell them to drink as much water as they can hold. We emphasize water or Gatorade, 72 ounces a day. If they can hold that, they’re OK. In 15 years, we’ve never had a heat-related injury serious enough to take to the hospital.”
Being in shape before workouts begin is another preventive measure, Morgan said.
“I drink a lot of water, a few sips of Gatorade to keep up my energy, and I run. A few 100-yard dashes, a few long-distance runs, but not pushing or killing myself,” he said.