Another teenager died in connection with extreme heat on Tuesday night. That death left the current preseason football toll at four student athletes and one coach, five tragedies which all could have been avoided, according to medical experts.
While common sense and the intervention of some school district officials has curbed the threat in some areas (notably Georgia, which has already lost two football players), one of the nation's most prominent programs in Texas insisted on holding its first practice outside during the hottest hours of the day -- it started at 4 p.m. on Monday -- all while the team could have been practicing inside the school's indoor practice facilities, which are air conditioned.
As documented in detail by TheOldCoach.com and the Dallas Morning News, the school which brazenly decided to ignore 100 degree temperatures and the ever-present health risks they create was Allen (Texas) High, an annual UIL Class AAAAA state championship contender -- the Eagles are ranked No. 6 nationally and No. 1 in the state of Texas in the first RivalsHigh 100 of the 2011 season -- and the very program which is in the middle of a $60 million stadium construction project.
Of course, practicing outdoors is nothing radical. Nearly every program in the country does it as the days tick away until the 2011 season kicks off. The difference with Allen is that it has one of the nicest indoor facilities in the state of Texas, if not the nation. There's absolutely no reason for the Eagles to hold practices outside.
Allen's head football coach, Tom Westerburg, said that the team is holding a majority of its preseason practices and workouts outside so its players acclimate themselves to the heat, since its early season games are all played outside in similarly steamy conditions.
That may be true, but it's hard not to feel like a certain amount of machismo is involved in the decision, too. While the days of withholding water from players to improve their "toughness" may be gone, the days of coaches wanting their players to be as tough as possible certainly aren't.
It's unknown if Westerburg intends to stick to his original schedule of holding a majority of the team's preseason training outdoors. It's also unknown if continuing blazing temperatures in Texas might at least encourage the coach to adjust the timing of his workouts.
One thing is certain, however: Holding any practices outside, at 4 p.m., when the temperature (let alone the heat index) is already well above 100 degrees, is an absolutely ridiculous risk to take with the health of teenagers. That much is plain and simple.