HEAT'S ON ATHLETES COACHES KEEP EYE ON PLAYERS.
SANTA CLARITA - As temperatures climbed into the 100s for the fourth day, local high school coaches took precautions with athletes to prevent heat exhaustion, in some cases canceling practices.
For Canyon High football players, it was business as usual. The squad worked out Wednesday, dressed in gear and running drills under the glaring sun - but taking frequent water breaks.
Their normal workout from about 3 to 8 p.m. started with three laps around the track followed by an hour of weight-lifting and then drills. To beat the heat, some players walked around without jerseys and after the one-mile run, doused themselves under a sprinkler.
Their coach, Harry Welch, said practicing in the heat is fine, as long as athletes are sufficiently hydrated. Although gallon water jugs and large thermoses scattered next to the players' gym bags littered the sides of the fields, the athletes' water source of choice was the sprinklers watering the field.
``I really believe athletes need to be acclimated to the heat and the humidity. There's not a lot of humidity here, but there is a lot of heat,'' Welch said. ``A well-conditioned athlete must be able to compete in 100-plus-degree weather, but they must be acclimated and hydrated.''
Coaches said that in this heat, they don't place any limitations on the amount of water players can drink, and they watch carefully for early symptoms of heat-related illnesses.
``They can drink as much as they want, as often as they want,'' Welch said, pointing to a player who was running toward the sprinklers as the team was listening to instructions.
Frank Ferry, assistant coach for the varsity soccer team practicing at Valencia High, agreed that if the kids drink a lot of water, they won't suffer adverse effects from the heat. He encourages the players to drink quarts of water the day before to be hydrated enough for the following day's practice.
But as a precautionary measure, he cut short morning practices the past few days, moving the team indoors about 10 a.m. to watch World Cup games on video or to go over plays on the chalkboard. ``We're sensitive to the heat. If the kids hydrate in the mornings, it's not much of a problem,'' Ferry said, adding that they also pass out sunscreen to the athletes.
The media attention surrounding the heat-related death of 27-year-old Minnesota Viking Korey Stringer last year during football practice forced coaches to become more alert during practice, looking out for signs of heat-related illnesses.
Len Mohney, the dean of physical education and athletics at College of the Canyons, who oversees all the high school physical education summer classes, said he's warned the coaches to exercise caution this week during practices.
``I e-mailed site coordinators to use extra common sense because of the heat wave this week - don't go out, don't go as hard, don't go as long,'' Mohney said.
Pat Willett, spokeswoman for the William S. Hart Union High School District, explained that coaches at Hart and Valencia high schools have been moving teams indoors, like to the weight room, if necessary and keeping a close eye on the athletes.
Welch believes it would be a mistake to slow the training when the temperatures rise.
``If they compete in warm conditions again, the athlete goes all out and beyond what they're conditioned to do, and that's when they suffer from heat exhaustion, heat stroke or even death,'' Welch said.
And the athletes don't seem to mind, saying that they have easily adjusted to playing in the scorching heat.
``It's harder,'' acknowledged 17-year-old Chris Pyne, ``but we get used to it.''
Others say practicing in the heat makes them more motivated to win.
``Playing in the heat helps us get prepared and gives us the advantage over most teams we play,'' said player Landen Llamas, 16.
Mark Wallerstain, director of emergency services at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, said a handful of patients have been admitted this week for heat-related incidences, which is normal during a heat wave.
He agreed that with adequate hydration, athletes should have no problem practicing in the heat, stressing that adults should exercise more caution when monitoring teen-agers.
``You don't realize how much you're sweating in the heat and losing water and electrolytes,'' he cautioned. ``But considering the number of athletes and coaches out there, the amount of people who show up at the ER for heat-related illnesses is pretty small.''
Recommended methods for athletes to beat the heat:
--Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing.
--Carry water or juice and drink between 16 and 20 ounces per hour.
--Eat small meals and eat more often. Avoid foods that are high in protein, which increase metabolic heat.
--Avoid strenuous activity. If it isn't avoidable, do between 4 and 7 a.m., the coolest part of the day.
--Take regular breaks on warm days.
--All athletes should have a physical exam each year.
--Conditioning should start in advance of formal drills.
--Acclimate to hot weather gradually.
--Replace salt loss.
3 photos, box
(1 -- color) Under a broiling summer sun, members of the Canyon High School football team do squats with 155-pound weights.
(2 -- color) Drew Peterson, a junior at Canyon High School, takes a water break during summer workouts for the football team.
(3) Bobby Spavedra, left, and other members of the Canyon High School football team do weight squats. Coaches say hot-weather workouts build stamina, but they watch for signs of overheating.
David R. Crane/Staff Photographer
HOT TIPS (see text)
SOURCE: American Red Cross and National Federation of State High School Athletic Associations.