August 15, 2003 at 11:23 a.m.
For local football coaches, diagraming how to defend against the heat wave is more important than how to defend the run. Heat stroke has always been an issue, but since the sudden death of Minnesota Viking Korey Stringer two years ago, coaches from around the country are leaving no room for error.
“I think (the Stringer death) publicized it more. We were always looking out for it but the reality of it made us pay even more attention to it,” remarked Bill Weiss, head football coach at Chisago Lakes. “I approach it the same as tackling or blocking, it all comes down to being safe. We preach to the kids to make sure they keep their head high to avoid a neck injury. With the heat, we tell the kids to pay attention to their bodies and when they need water to go get it. We have two five minute mandatory water breaks during practice and sometimes more.”
Joel Swanson, head football coach at North Branch can always remember heat being a concern. Sixteen years ago, while playing in high school, his team switched their practice format from one four hour practice in the morning to two-two hour practices, one in the morning and one in the evening. Simply, the goal was to avoid the heat. He has run his practices like that ever since.
“That’s why I go in the morning for two hours and in the evening for two. Most of the conditioning is not in the heat,” said Swanson. “I also make sure to tell the kids to bring their own water bottles to the sidelines and when they need to get some water, they go get some. We have at least two mandatory water breaks so the kids can continue to get fluids,”
“Going two hours at a time gives kids a chance to replenish themselves,” added Bill Baumann, Vikings offensive coordinator. “We used to go from 8 to 1 p.m. This way seems to make a lot more sense for the kids.”
Adjusting practice times is already in motion by the Minnesota State High School League. It is expected that soon, it will be mandatory for all schools to follow the Vikings routine. In the meantime, the High School League offers a graph for coaches to use, hoping to prevent future heat issues.
“The High School League has always had a chart that measures the temperature and humidity. It gives you a caution zone so we look at that and adjust our practices accordingly,” commented Weiss. “Like all coaches, we take it very serious.”
“It’s basically common sense coaching,” added Baumann. “As coaches and players, you need to use your head. Breaking up the practice by not doing high level stuff back to back is the key. That’s by far the biggest thing.”