By ANA BRACCIALLI
We may be proud to say “I live where you vacation,” but as a student-athlete it is not as easy as it sounds. Because of the high heat in Florida, coaches have been changing a few aspects of their practices so the performance of their athletes are not affected.
“For us, we needed to revise our entire pre-season schedule as we could not train on our game field all pre-season due to maintenance,” said Adrian Bush, head coach of the men’s soccer team. “This required us moving to the turf field on campus which puts the heat about 40 to 60 degrees hotter when in peak hours of the day. We adjusted our training times focusing on early a.m. practices and later p.m. practices. We also provided more rest times than normal along with pool workouts to allow better recovery for the student-athletes.”
The situation remains the same with the women’s cross country team. Jarrett Slaven, the head coach of the team, says that they are now taking longer water breaks in between workouts to recover. He also says that they try to mix up their water intake with Gatorade, especially when they are racing — since that is where they do their hardest work.
“Sometimes we even bring fruits like watermelon,” Slaven said. “We try to make it fun even though they work hard. Sometimes when someone is extremely tired from the weather, we’ll send her to the new gym, get her on the elliptical and let them do the workout over there.”
Although it is tough to practice in this weather, all the coaches confirm that the high heat is something positive for the UT teams.
“We are going to go to Louisville in two weeks and it might be a little cooler over there,” Slaven said. “The girls should be running really good, probably the best in their career.”
Bush says he has lived in Florida his entire life, and prefers the warm weather over the cold.
“I feel it is positive if [we are] playing day games, but the reality is most of our schedule,15 out of 16 games, is against South Region opponents which have similar weather conditions to what we face in Tampa,” Bush said.
However, he believes that as we get into late September and October, the Tampa can get some very hot days that much of the teams above Orlando may not experience. He emphasizes that the team will use this time to take advantage, especially on game days.
For the head coach of the men’s lacrosse team, Rory Whipple, he is a strong believer that the high heat only brings positive effects for the team.“Hot weather training may even surpass high–altitude training for improving performance,” Whipple said. “That is why we run two miles before practice three times a week.”
Although training hard is one important step for all of UT teams, they also agree that hydration is another major key for success.
“Their hydration is really important and they know it,” Slaven said. “We have a big container full of water and Gatorade for every training section.”
Bush also said that coaches and students need to be smart about dealing with the players’ health.
“We lean very much on our athletic training staff for their input in putting together the practice schedule and monitoring the players’ weight before and after training sessions,” Bush said. “If the training staff feels a player has lost too much weight, they will hold players out until they can get to the weight needed to resume activity. As a coach, I have learned to listen more to the players and pay attention to how their bodies are feeling.”
Safety must be a priority in any sport, according to Bush. What the athletes do on and off the field can either help or hurt them. Bush emphasizes that staying hydrated and eating the right food before and after practice is a high priority for the men’s soccer team.
Ana Braccialli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org