EDMOND, Oklahoma – Edmond Public Schools announced Thursday that it is taking multiple precautions to protect its football players from heat-related illnesses.
Those precautions include starting practices earlier in the morning, adding additional water stations and misting tents and using parent volunteers to spot players who show signs of heat exhaustion.
"I have been in constant contact with our site athletic directors and coaches to discuss what is in the best interest of our athletes," district athletic director Mike Nunley said in a statement. "Our top priority is making sure our students stay safe while practicing in this unprecedented heat."
The first week of high school practices will begin on Aug. 9, and that week's practices will start at 7 a.m. and run until 11 a.m. During Week 2, practices will start at the same time but end at 10 a.m., and on Aug. 15 they will be held in the evening.
Middle school coaches can choose between two options during their first week of practices: Morning sessions from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m., or night sessions from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. During the second week, the night session will become their only option.
"Middle school is tough because many students have transportation issues and can't practice in the morning, so we are giving coaches the option of a night practice," Nunley said. "But it will be short, just two hours, with mandatory rest and water breaks being taken every 15 minutes or as needed."
Middle schools also will use the same misting tents and "hydration stations" used by the high schools.
"We worry about our middle school athletes because they don't have as much experience in the sport and they are sometimes less likely to speak up if they are feeling ill," Nunley said. "We believe that having those additional parents will be critical to helping us recognize those kids who need to get out of the heat."
The district also will be making a concerted effort to make sure its athletes and their parents are well informed about the dangers excessive heat can pose. Athletic trainers will be speaking to athletes' families and telling them the symptoms of heat exhaustion and the importance of a well-balanced breakfast and consistent hydration.
Football is not the only sport that could see some changes due to the high temperatures. Softball and cross country coaches also will have the option of altering their practices.
"We are leaving it up to those coaches to shorten practice or start earlier if they need to in order to protect their athletes," Nunley said. "We are asking all coaches to remain fluid in their assessment of how their teams are reacting to the heat and then adjust their practice schedules accordingly."
The current heat wave has broken multiple state high temperature records, and Oklahoma has experienced 43 days of temperatures greater than 100 degrees since the summer began.