July is well under way and record highs (or close to it) have been seen across the country. The high heat can be dangerous for everyone, but especially for a youth athlete that is cooking under the noon day sun in full catcher’s gear. Many baseball and soccer fields barely offer enough shade for the spectators, which means the players get no break from the sun and heat. Dehydration among youth athletes is a serious concern, and more serious heat related illnesses like heat stroke are also cause for worry. So to help keep your youth athlete cool and healthy during the summer months here are a few tips:
1. Schedule games and practices for mornings and late afternoons.
Avoid the middle of the day when the sun and heat are at their worst. Try to schedule as many games and practices (which a coach might have a bit more control over) in the morning, say 9 AM, or afternoons after 4 or 5. It might still be plenty hot, but not quite as painful as it is midday. This will make everyone, including athletes, coaches and parents, a little happier on the field!
2. Keep a few towels on ice.
This is a great idea if you are heading to an all-day tournament this summer. Fill a small cooler with ice and put a couple washcloths inside so they get nice and icy cold. Whenever your athletes have a break let them cool off with a cold washcloth on the back of the neck or forehead. A cold towel can also help cool an overheated youth athlete down if they need a little extra help.
3. Pack lots of extra water.
When it’s extra hot out, a thirsty and tired player is going to need a lot of water. The more you sweat (to help keep your body cool), the more fluids you lose and need to replace. A glass of water at half-time probably isn’t going to cut it, so be sure you have lots of extra water on hand. Drinking water after the fact is very important, but you also want to make sure your youth athlete is properly hydrated before they step on the field so be sure to keep them drinking all day!
4. Give talks in the shade.
Let’s say at the end of practice or a game you like to spend 10-15 minutes talking to your team. When it’s hot why not take them into the shade for your post-game wrap-up? It’s hard to pay attention when the sun is beating down on you, so giving them a little respite might actually help everyone stay focused for a few extra minutes.
Parents and coaches spend a lot of time worrying about keeping their youth athletes cool in the summer months, but don’t forget to take care of yourself! Pack your own bottle of water, wear a hat and take breaks in the shade from time to time so you don’t suffer.