By TERRY GROOVER
In Oklahoma, temperatures that hover around 100 degrees are not unusual. But, it also means that coaches and athletic trainers are keeping a closer eye on their athletes.
Like most schools across the state, football teams in Canadian County began hitting the field Monday.
The outside temperature in Yukon hit 107 degrees that day, and the heat index was almost 115.
When the players took to the field at 6 p.m., the temperature was still above 100.
Meanwhile, across from Miller Stadium at the Yukon softball complex, the Millerettes were hosting Piedmont in a season-opening game.
Yukon Athletic Director Mike Clark said the coaches and the training staff were aware of the situation and were prepared if anyone became overheated. The district takes every precaution to make sure there are not heat-related
“We’ve been fortunate the past few years. We’ve had mild temperatures,” he said.
However, that was not the case Monday.
Clark said the Yukon School District utilizes an alert system that notifies the trainers and coaches when the heat index reaches a certain level.
It also will notify them when there is lightning in the area.
“We can notify every coach within a matter of minutes,” he said.
As a result, the coaches make adjustments to protect the student-athletes. That may even mean cancelling practice.
“Monday was the closest we’ve come,” Clark said.
Besides the alert system, the district has added several immersion units that will allow trainers to help lower the athlete’s body temperature quickly.
There always are immersion tubs near the football field and Monday, there was one near the dugouts at the softball complex.
Clark said it usually takes a couple of weeks for the athletes to become adjusted to the outside temperatures.
Athletes participating in softball, volleyball and cross country have been practicing for a few weeks already and may have made those adjustments.
Temperatures are expected to remain hot over the next several days, which is important to note because the football team began practicing in full gear on Friday.
They are set for intrasquad scrimmages Saturday evening.
Clark said the coaching staff has the option of moving practice times to help alleviate any concerns about the temperatures.
The softball team, for example, initially practiced from 9 to 11 a.m., beginning in mid-July. However, because of the heat, the practices were moved up an hour to 8 a.m. The team also spent the final 30 minutes of each practice in the indoor batting cages, which are air conditioned.
As for the football team, Clark said coaches may limit how much time the players have their full pads on, at least initially.
Leander Walker, who heads the Yukon training staff and is president of the Oklahoma Trainers’ Association, said safety is their top priority.
Yukon has not had a serious heat-related illness that he is aware of, and that is their goal.
Walker said he and coach Jeremy Reed talked about the heat before Monday’s practice and moved it back an hour to allow the temperatures to fall a little.
“I can watch practice and know we are probably not going to have major issues because of all of the prevention that we’ve done ahead of times,” he said.
That includes knowing how much the athletes weigh both before and after practice, and talking with them about how much food to eat and encouraging them to drink plenty of water.
“We have all the pieces in place that if we had a kid who was showing the signs and symptoms that we could get them cool before we have a heat stroke issue,” Walker said.