Jacob Hunt, Campus Carrier online editor
The first week of October brought highs in the upper 90s with some days exceeding 100 degrees, and everyone was wondering when the heat wave would end. One group that is especially ready for cooler temperatures is the football team, which has been pushing its way through one of the hottest seasons on record.
“There is a fine line between being tough and being stupid,” Head Coach Tony Kunczewski said. “We don’t want to cross that line.”
Since arriving at camp in August, football has faced nothing but extreme temperatures, making practices quite difficult. The team has been forced to mix safety procedures with normal preparations to ensure total success at all of their games while beating the heat. While these combinations have been working, pushing through the weather has required a lot of dedication and persistence.
Both the players and coaches have used maximum effort to ensure the best season. Over the summer the men were given instructions on basics to prepare for camp and the heat that they would face in their first few weeks. What was not expected was the usage of those skills beyond the summer months, as those techniques are still being utilized.
“Our guys did a great job all spring and in the summer, when they weren’t here, making sure they were in shape for camp, because it would be unbelievably difficult to be able to go through August camp and get ready for the season if you don’t come into report day being in great shape,” Kunczewski said.
The players have also had to find different ways to prepare for game days. One issue the team has faced involves padding. The players have had almost no practices in full padding since the start of season to avoid heat related injuries, which has increased the difficulty of game day where full padding is required.
“We have to, as a coaching staff, figure out how to replicate [game day situations] during the week to be successful on Saturday without overdoing it,” Kunczewski said.
The team has found ways around training without padding to still ensure success on game day. With the help of coaches and other staff, the team has figured out the best ways to utilize practice times and has been training the players on skills to combat the heat. One example includes having each player drink a cup of Gatorade for every two cups of water in order to ensure hydration and keep up with electrolyte intake.
Not all the practices have been without issues, however. The players have faced all sorts of heat related illnesses because of the extreme temperatures. Defensive lineman Jack Luker, for instance, faced a full body cramp called rhabdomyolysis after one practice, forcing him to be rushed to the emergency room. He now drinks lots of water every day to prevent future problems with the heat.
“It could have been lethal if not treated,” Luker said. “Now I drink about 10 liters of water a day to prepare for practice since I’m more susceptible to rhabdomyolysis.”
Other issues this season have included blood disorders triggered by the high heat and minor related problems such as light headedness, cramps and passing out.
As the season has progressed, solutions for these problems have developed and the situations for the players are getting better. According to Assistant Athletic Trainer Kathleen Duncanson, some techniques the team’s leaders are using according to include enforcing several two minute kneeling breaks and sometimes even shortening or delaying practices if conditions require.
However, practices still force the team to face the heat at times in order to allow the best results on game day.
“It’s making sure we can practice in these conditions without putting ourselves or the team in danger,” Kunczewski said.
The Vikings are still going strong despite the heat and are 5-0 for the season.
The Vikings also are predicted to have cooler temperatures for their next game at Valhalla Stadium on Oct. 12 at 2 p.m. against Hendrix College.