The ongoing heat wave wreaked havoc on the opening of high school football practices in the Lower Hudson Valley Monday. The heat index reached and exceeded 96 degrees in some areas and forced schools to scramble their afternoon schedules.
At Nyack Middle School, where new coach Dominick DeMatteo hosted his first practice, the team remained inside after the heat index creeped above the threshhold just before an afternoon session was scheduled to begin.
“We were about to leave our installation meeting to go outside and the heat index hit 97 so we had to go back inside,” DeMatteo said.
Nyack took precautions prior to Monday. DeMatteo and athletic trainer Wes Miller instructed players to focus on staying hydrated more than 48 hours prior to practice.
“In order to stay hydrated, you want to start drinking water and getting hydrated two days in advance or at least the day before,” Miller said. “Once you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated and it’s hard to play catch up.”
But not even proper hydration was enough Monday. Schools in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association must adhere to its heat index procedures, which require schools to increase water breaks and limit equipment when necessary after the heat index reaches 91. The teams are not allowed to participate in any outside activity once the index reaches 96, as it did Monday.
Athletic trainers, administrators and coaches are expected to monitor the “Feels Like” temperature on WeatherBug.com or the WeatherBug app. (The NYSPHSAA used AccuWeather.com’s ReelFeel index before switching to WeatherBug this year.)
Players said they take the threat of heat illness seriously.
“If you’re working out or jogging, it’s best to keep it where you’re going at good pace but where you do not push yourself and you’re about to keel over,” said Daniel Iaciofano, a lineman at Hastings. “Always check the weather. If it’s over 90 degrees, I highly recommend you just don’t because you can have a high risk of heat exhaustion and cardiac arrest.”
That risk may decrease somewhat for the remainder of the week. According to the WeatherBug forecast, high temperatures are expected to hover in the mid-to-low 80s into next week.
Like NFL and college teams, schools have attempted to extend the break between their morning and afternoon practices to beat the heat. They face limitations based that only allow them so much leeway when temperatures spike.
“An ideal scenario and kind of the NFL and Division I model is to go very early in the morning and then much later in the evening,” DeMatteo said. “The middle part of the day is for lifting and meetings and such. Obviously at our level we don’t have the facility or the support staff they have at those levels.”