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Our Opinion: Proper pushing on the gridiron

August 08, 2001

With football players dying in pre-season training camps around the country, concern is great about what is going on in such camps and what can be done to prevent heat- and exhaustion-related injuries and deaths.

Nowhere should we be more concerned about such problems as here in the Imperial Valley, where it is as hot, particularly in the late summer, as anywhere football is played.

With "hell week" on the horizon at local high schools, our concern almost automatically goes to that level of the sport. Many of our local high school coaches push their kids hard, particularly in the pre-season, in an attempt to get their charges in shape and toughened for the season.

Still, we know our high school coaches, particularly the local head coaches, are professional educators and therefore educated and intelligent men. Most are up to date on the latest techniques in pushing kids while not pushing too hard, thereby preventing heat exhaustion. Most avoid practicing in the apex of the heat of the day. The old and ignorant practice of not allowing players to drink water during practice in order to toughen the athletes was abandoned long ago by smart coaches.

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We tend to worry a bit more about youth league coaches, some of whom may not be as informed about protecting kids from the heat. Many may simply be using the techniques that were used on them when they played football, and many of those practices are archaic now. That is why we urge such coaches to educate themselves and attend clinics, and that is why we laud the relatively new Imperial Valley Football Coaches Association, which provides training for youth league coaches willing to learn.

Parents can play a major part in protecting their kids from heat-related problems by making sure the kids are in good shape before going out to that first practice. Parents should remember heat-related injuries, along with potentially bringing death, can cause problems throughout a lifetime, so sending a prepared athlete to pre-season training is crucial. Parents and coaches should also stress to the players that it is not macho or tough but stupid to push the body beyond what it is telling a person it can handle.

Football can and should be something that builds the bodies and characters of young people. With well-informed coaches doing the proper things with well-conditioned players, lives should not be in the balance.

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