How weather affects sports

Sep. 2—MOULTRIE — With the passing of Hurricane Idalia sports in Colquitt County have naturally shut down for the safety of all players, coaches, referees and spectators.

"This is the first time in a while we have had a major hurricane affect the season," said Chance Pitts, head coach for the Lady Packers varsity softball team. "We had one before where we had to take two weeks off. It's just one of those things you dodge during the fall when it's hot and thunderstorms pop up."

If lightning is within 10 miles of the venue then the Georgia High School Association (GHSA) states all practices and games must halt.

"That's [lightning] the biggest thing for us," said head coach for the Packers varsity football team, Sean Calhoun. "Last year the very first game of the season we got delayed by two hours at Lowndes when we played against Deerfield."

Once the storm passes, athletics may continue.

"DTN tells us how far away lightning is," said Kathleen Rubino, Assistant Athletic Trainer at Colquitt County High School. "With lighting it's just a matter of waiting for it to go away, but DTN also tells us the heat index."

DTN is the Data Transmission Network, which is a subscription-based program Colquitt County School District uses that shows real time weather and gives the current WetBulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) rating.

"It considers a bunch of different factors to get the WetBulb number," said Calhoun. "Things like the air and humidity. Then, it spits out a number and the GHSA regulates what that number means and correlates it to what you can do that day."

A regular day will show the WBGT under 82.0, whereas a day where no activity may take place the number is over 92.0.

Anywhere in between means an altered style of practice.

"It changes depending on the heat index," said Rubino. "The amount of time allowed for practice and number of water breaks changes; and, especially for football with those kids in full protective gear, the different levels determine how much of their gear they are allowed to wear."

Heat is like the ocean — you have to respect it and understand it could kill you.

"People don't often think that weather affects health," said Rubino. "But, it does have a major're sweating out salts and losing sugars. You have to eat enough and drink enough to replenish. Gatorade can be used before or after," said Rubino. "But, you really need water. It's less fun tasting, but it makes a big difference."

If someone isn't paying attention to the signs, it's easy to get in trouble.

"It's easy for overheating to go from nothing to heat exhaustion real quick," said Rubino. "And if you don't respond right away you could be looking at heat stroke and an ER visit."

Heat exhaustion is where the body has become dehydrated and the cardiovascular system is struggling to pump blood throughout the body.

"When someone has heat exhaustion we get them under an ice bath to lower the core body temperature," said Rubino.

Heat stroke is the stage that follows heat exhaustion if it goes untreated. The body temperature gets so dangerously high that it begins overheating the tissues and organs.

Those who have heat stroke often go delirious with confusion and hallucinations, have slurred speech and continuously vomit.

If still left untreated, heat stroke can lead to loss of consciousness, potentially resulting in a coma, and may result in death.

"It's tough," said Pitts. "But, we are blessed to have the indoor facility where we can still practice even with lighting or heat."

In fact, Colquitt County is one of the only that isn't detrimentally affected by the heat and fall thunderstorms.

"It's a massive advantage for us," said Calhoun. "When other teams can't go outside in full pads or are stuck in the gym we are able to truly never miss a practice."

The indoor training facilities for both football and softball have been designed with the proper equipment to allow the WetBulb number to always be low enough for practice to continue as normal.

"I know other places have to cancel practices or move into the gym a lot because of the heat index," said Rubino. "Being in Colquitt County we have indoor facilities and that definitely gives us an advantage because if any outdoor sports are affected by the weather they can practice inside. And, they are usually able to share okay."

Weather having to alter practices and reschedule games could cause concentration issues, but the Packers and Lady Packers know how to not let it distract them.

"I'm blessed to have girls that care about softball year round," said Pitts. "It can be tough sometimes to keep them focused, but for the most part they are. and knowing the other team is in the same boat helps. It's South Georgia. It's hot. We are used to it."

"They do a really good job at staying focused on what they can control," said Calhoun. "Practices don't ever have delays and with the indoor training facility those never really alter. On game day it can always be a little worrisome that they might lose focus and get mad or frustrated about weather delays."

However, Calhoun has found a way to turn this negative into a way to actually pump the team up.

"I tell them we have to focus on what we can control," said Calhoun. "We aren't the only team involved. So, the question is, what team is going to handle it better and take advantage and control the situation?"

At the end of the day, anything can be used as a learning experience.

"I think it teaches adversity when the weather changes quickly," said Rubino. "Last year, for example, a hurricane hit on a Friday so the football game had to be changed to Wednesday. Things like that prepare these kids on how to change quickly and be prepared."