How SWFL high school football is managing the heat

Reporter: Zach Oliveri Writer: Paul Dolan
Published: Updated:
High School Football
High school football practice. CREDIT: WINK News

High school football fever is sweeping across Southwest Florida, especially considering the Jamboree Games kick-off Thursday night. While players gear up to play against their opponents, they’re also grappling with scorching temperatures.

The high school football season isn’t the only thing heating up in Southwest Florida since it’s been hot for several months. The extreme weather has forced coaches and players in Lee and Collier counties to change their game plans.

“At least for this first game that’s happening tomorrow night, we’ve pushed everybody back to a 7:30 p.m. start because the 7 o’clock readings were in a safe zone, so we wouldn’t have to make many modifications,” said Courtney Schott, the Gulf Coast High School head athletic trainer.

“7:30 game time, we would have had zero cancellations, so we wanted to make sure we did that on data,” said Mark Rosenbalm, the Collier County schools supervisor of interscholastic athletics.

That data comes from the Wetbulb Glove Temperature Reader. Florida law requires all teams to use the technology to determine what practice can look like based on the heat. Measured handheld or online, regardless of the sport.

high school football
Wetbulb device. CREDIT: WINK News

“When you watch a newscast, you’ll see the actual temperature, and then you see the feels-like temperature. This is usually something following somewhere in between. But there are a lot of different factors. The humidity, the actual temperature, the wind speed,” said Brent Burnside, athletic director for East Lee County High School.

Schools have to follow the color-coordinated chart. Based on the reading, the chart shows what teams need to adjust their practices. If it’s in the black, there are no outdoor activities.

“We’ve been inside an entire afternoon because we’ve been in the black all afternoon. And that’s been pretty consistent through, you know, throughout the course of the last probably three weeks. I’ve had football come out in the morning prior to school now because of this,” said Burnside.

Courtney Schott, the head athletic trainer at Gulf Coast High School, told WINK News that he still has to be vigilant as the games begin.

“It still involves giving players extra access to water, more water breaks, you know, me talking to the official before the game starts, saying, hey, this is what the temperature looks like its doing. You know, we need to look out for these kids,” said Schott.

Schools must also legally have cold tubs on hand, just in case. Games are tricky with the Wetbulb because there are ample breaks for water, and not every player is playing at once.

East Lee County is scheduled to host its jamboree for the high school football season against Bonita Springs Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

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