Newton takes precautions with the heat

Mark Schnabel
The Kansan
The Newton High School football team opened formal practice to mild tempuratures. The NHS staff and coaches still have to be careful with the heat.

The first day of formal practice for Kansas high school sports, which started Monday, often comes in the hottest part of the summer.

While this year’s start of practice came with fairly mild temperatures, it’s not uncommon for triple-digit heat.

That means a lot of preparation for Newton High School athletes, coaches and administrators.

“We just follow the (Kansas State High School Activities Association) rules for heat acclimation,” Newton High School activities director Brian Becker said. “Football, especially, has limited things they can do the first few days. Depending on what the heat index is, we might have teams practice later in the evening, when it’s not quite so hot. It’s frequent water breaks, making sure they are staying hydrated. We talk to coaches and kids about staying hydrating in advanced and not waiting until the afternoon of. We just have to be mindful of that.”

Newton High School trainer Katrina Steiner

“We have a heat illness protocol that we follow,” Newton High School athletic trainer Katrina Steiner said. “KSHSAA puts it out and every high school needs to follow it. You have to check temperatures to see if the heat index is too high. When it is, you have to follow that protocol — whether it’s shells (helmets) only or no equipment at all. You can do full pads, but only to a certain temperature. You have ice baths, where you have a cattle tub or trough and dump a bunch of ice in there. You always have to cool first and transport later with anyone you suspect with heat stroke. You have to get that body temperature down before you send them to the emergency room. It saves lives. We just make sure they have a lot of water breaks. We don’t have a lot of shade (on the practice fields). You might send them indoors to get cooler.”

Steiner said freshmen are often most at risk to heat illness, since sometimes they aren’t used to the level of exertion at the high school level.

“They are coming from middle school and they don’t know what to expect in high school,” Steiner said. “We’re only on day three, day one of football practice, and I haven’t had any problems.”

Newton has a couple of fall teams that play indoors, but Steiner said you still need some caution.

Football teams spend the first three days of practice with just helmets, shirts and jerseys — avoiding full pads.

In early-season contests during warmer weather — especially football and boys’ soccer — games are stopped to give athletes hydration breaks.

Becker said he hasn’t had any major issues with athletes overcome by heat during practices or home events. He said there may have been during some away contests.

“With last week’s super hot temperatures (during conditioning sessions), we were concerned with some things, but we didn’t have any major issues,” Becker said. “They have been working out all summer and are somewhat used to it. Kids are getting much more educated about heat illness and hydration. We’re just careful and cautious.”

“Workouts over the summer is huge,” Steiner said. “We had a great turnout over the summer. The whole spectrum — the middle schoolers. I know the girls’ basketball team did a huge summer program. Football did and it went really well. Just making sure you’re staying in shape. You have to have good nutrition. You just can’t be eating junk food all the time. You have to get proteins, carbohydrates and fat. You can’t just be drinking all water. You have to add in electrolytes.”

Mark Schnabel can be reached at