Arizona high school athletes pivot in preseason when temperatures soar

Practices are underway for different sports during Arizona's extreme heat wave but there are regulations to protect kids while they practice.
Published: Jul. 26, 2023 at 11:01 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — The scorching heat doesn’t delay the start of Arizona’s high school football season. “I feel like, well, we’re playing in Arizona. You know it’s going to be hot outside. It doesn’t really matter. You have to toughen up and go through it,” said Demond Williams, Jr., from Basha High School.

Williams is one of the most coveted quarterbacks in the nation. But when practice is canceled due to the heat, his feelings can be a mix of disappointment and relief. “A little bit of both; it just depends on the day,” he laughed.

With day after day of excessive heat warnings, how does preseason practice even take place? “We haven’t had a full practice yet because of the heat. We’ve had a lot of restrictions. We’re trying to take care of the boys the best we can. Every practice we’ve had so far has really been modified with our trainer,” said Dr. Bobby Newcombe, football coach at Casteel High School.

Coach Newcombe said they were forced to cancel Wednesday’s practice altogether. Thursday may be the same. “We want to make sure we’re doing the right things with them first,” he said,

Tamara McLeod is on the Arizona Interscholastic Association’s Sports Medicine Advisory Committee. It has a policy that schools must follow when training in the heat, including a two-week period for athletes to acclimate to the weather. And they heavily rely on athletic trainers to decide when to cancel or modify practice. “We’re always working on educating the schools, the educators, the athletic trainers as the Sports Medicine Advisory Committee. We review all our policies annually, and we send out reminders.

Coach Newcombe says it’s another layer of responsibility that comes with coaching in a hot climate. “We want to get stuff done, but my sole responsibility is to bring them all back, so that’s the only thing I’m thinking about the whole time. Everything else is secondary,” he said.

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