Everyone knows that extreme heat in late July and August poses serious health risks for high school players braving the weather for preseason football practices. Now a school in Arizona is facing workouts in some of the most extreme heat in the country while camping out in the school gym because of the economic downturn.
According to the East Valley Tribune, the Tempe (Ariz.) High football program was forced to forego its annual summer training camp in Prescott Valley, Ariz. -- where it is significantly cooler than the Tempe area -- because the team couldn't raise enough money to cover the expense of the trip. In past years the preseason camp was funded largely by a massive fundraising drive by the program, but the 2011 drive fell short of the money needed to fund a camp away from the school.
The Tempe program held a variety of fundraisers to try and hit its target, but the $8,000 cost was eventually too large a gap to be bridged. As if there was any question, the economy was a major factor in both the decreased returns from the community and the athletes' ability to raise funds at all. Tempe coach Brian Walker said that more of his students had to work during the spring semester to help support their families, taking up time after school when they might have otherwise been able to canvas their neighborhoods to try and raise money.
"It's been a lot more difficult this year," Walker told the Tribune. "I completely didn't expect it to happen. We implemented some team building inside Prescott Valley — mini golf, movies, Prescott H.S. football team doing social stuff — and they loved that a lot.
"They were obviously upset."
Tempe isn't the only school facing such a shortfall, but the Buffaloes may feel the pinch of missing out on football training camp more than other schools.
While other Phoenix-area programs like Westwood (Ariz.) High and Paradise Valley (Ariz.) High were able to raise enough money through fundraisers (and, occasionally, through large donations or loans from families of individual players), Tempe was forced to scrap the team-building activities it traditionally holds in Prescott Valley and set up cots in the school gym so the school's athletes could "escape" life at home for a few days.
Naturally, missing out on a football camp is not nearly as drastic as the cuts weathered by other districts in the current economic climate, but it still could have a profound affect on teams' futures.
Keeping the training camps in the middle of the Arizona heat could also put players at a much more significant risk than they would face in other parts of the state (or other states entirely), as well. Players can't work out in the sun for nearly as long in the Tempe area as they could in the mountains, or near the ocean in California, where some other Arizona schools hold their camps.
Whether or not the lack of a traditional summer training camp will derail the Buffaloes' entire season remains to be seen, but one thing is certain: The players know what they're missing out on.
"[Football camp] was like Christmas in a way, maybe better," Walker told the Tribune.