By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
High school athletes and coaches are in survival mode this week as they attempt to cope with the intense heat.
“We’re just trying to get through this,” said Tupelo first-year head football coach David Bradberry. “This week is supposed to be the worst.”
With temperatures around 100 degrees and the heat index in the 110 to 115 range daily, Bradberry makes sure his team remains hydrated. The players drink water and sports drinks, sit in the shade during breaks, and are allowed to take off their shoulder pads and helmets.
“We keep them hydrated,” Bradberry said. “We’ve got three breaks built in and we get them in the shade.
“It’s something you try to work through. Our team has done a good job fighting through this heat.”
Now that school is in session, Tupelo will be on the practice field by 3:30 p.m. each day, when the heat index is at high levels. To protect his players, Bradberry has cut back on the number of full-pad workouts during this streak of hot weather.
“Hopefully, we’re going to get a break in the weather soon,” Bradberry said.
In Batesville, the defending 6A state champion South Panola Tigers are practicing in the afternoons on artificial turf at their game stadium.
“It’s hot, probably 10 to 20 degrees hotter (than on grass),” assistant coach David Wilkerson said. “We’ve had no trouble. We keep them hydrated.
“These guys are in shape. We work them hard in the summer. They were acclimated to the heat before practice started.”
However, Wilkerson, a Ripley native, cannot recall temperatures this high in his 31 years of coaching.
“It’s never been this hot for this long,” he said.
Not just football
Football isn’t the only sport practicing in the heat. Girls slow-pitch softball and cross country are preparing for their upcoming seasons, too.
At Mooreville, softball coach Perry Wilburn has scheduled 6 p.m. practices to avoid the heat.
“When school starts we usually practice at 1,” he said. “It’s just too hot. We’re going to have to come back and practice at night.”
The Lady Troopers are hosting a seven-team jamboree Saturday that features Baldwyn, Corinth, Houston, Itawamba AHS, South Panola and Tupelo.
In cross country, Tupelo coach Nathan Hall gave his defending state champion boys and girls teams Wednesday off to beat the heat. They practiced at 5 p.m. Monday and Tuesday with the heat index registering in the 110 to 115 range.
“It’s awful,” said Hall, who runs with his teams. “It’s as uncomfortable as I’ve ever been. We have to be very cautious.”
The runners have plenty of water to drink and run on a training course that’s 90 percent in the shade.