It's back to the gridiron this week for local high school football players who are facing some brutal heat. With temperatures expected to hit at least 95° by the middle of this week, and the heat index hotter than 100°, coaches are taking steps to protect players.
Monday morning the Red Bank Lions had their first practice of the year wearing pads. The players say when it comes to dealing with the heat the key is to listen to their bodies.
It was already 82° when the Lions finished practice at noon, but it felt much warmer to Jackson. He stays busy on offense, defense, and special teams. His coaches look out for him and his teammates to make sure no one pushes himself too far in the heat.
"Our trainer, Josh, he'll check the temperature and if it's too hot he'll tell us to take off our shoulder pads and cool down a little bit," adds Jackson.
A breeze, pop-up shower, or brief cloud cover can be a welcomed relief, but are not guaranteed. The best way to avoid cramps, dizziness, or exhaustion is to stay hydrated.
"They can go get water whenever they want. If they need to go get water, they're allowed to go get it. They're not held hostage from getting water," states head coach Chad Grabowski with a chuckle.
Twenty gallons are available on the sidelines for the few dozen students on the field. It's enough to last through an early-season practice.
Dark colors, like the Lions Royal Blue absorb heat, keeping players toasty. Grabowski and the rest of the staff keep track of forecasts and conditions, making adjustments when necessary.
"If the heat index is too high we have to be inside," adds Grabowski, and they'll hold practice in the gym.
Jackson says it's also important to prepare for practice at home.
"I have a jug of water at home. I drink a gallon a day and sometimes I bring it to practice," says Jackson. "I eat a good breakfast."
Grabowski says what the athletes do after practice matters, too.
"Going home and going to sleep right now and not doing anything for your body isn't going to help anything," says Grabowski." They gotta go home and put some food in their body, get some fluids in their body."
It's not just high school football players who need to worry about staying hydrated. The Hamilton County Emergency Management Agency suggests drinking 1 to 2 quarts of water throughout the day if you're out in the heat. Also, the National Weather Service offices across the Tennessee Valley will issue a Heat Advisory if the heat index/temperature is expected to exceed 105°/103°.