Weather becoming a hot top among high school coaches

By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal

The hot topic at this week’s annual Mississippi High Activities Association’s District I meeting was … you guessed it, the heat.
The state’s high schools kicked off preseason drills in football, softball, cross country, swimming and volleyball this week, and unless you have an air-conditioned indoor practice facility or worked out at 9, maybe 10 p.m., there is no escaping the brutal temperatures.
It’s even hot in the swimming pool, Tupelo High swim coach Lucas Smith said.
“Your practices are limited because the water temperature is between 90-92 in the late afternoon,” he said. “The ideal temperature is 80-84.
“You sweat just as much in the water as you would running. There’s no shade in that water.”
Mooreville girls slow-pitch softball coach Perry Wilburn moved practices to night in an attempt to avoid some of the heat, but that didn’t work well, either.
“We still cut practice short (Wednesday) because it was too hot,” he said.
Saltillo cross country coach Charles Covington says his team hasn’t missed a practice run, but they’re taking plenty of precautions.
“We try to do extra stretching and we provide them unlimited water,” he said. “They can also slow down and walk if needed.
“It’s been hard, but we’re lucky to have a loop in the woods, so we can run in the shade.”
A higher power
Don Hinton, the new executive director of the Mississippi High School Activities Association, has met with his sports medicine advisory committee about the start of practice in the intense August heat.
“We rely on them as far as the safety of our teams and coaches,” he said. “They said that because of the things we do (conditioning-wise) in the offseason, that it would be OK for us to start.”
Hinton said fall practices were moved back a week this year after coaches expressed concerns about last year’s July start.
The new MHSAA chief is not sure trimming the seasons would help much when it comes to avoiding the August and September heat.
“Our sports overlap so much now,” he noted. “We play so many sports it’s hard to be fair with all of those. What we’re doing right now is pretty good. We’re finishing in line with some of our colleges.”
Smithville football coach Bubba Tacker, 36, says he doesn’t remember an August that wasn’t warm.
“It was hot when I played,” he said. “The key now is the condition of your players when they report. If they show up for their summer workouts, you have zero problems.”
gene.phelps@journalinc.com

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