By Juliet Becker and Violet Hemmingsen-Smith, Online Editor-in-Chief and Staff Writer
// At this time last year, student athletes patiently awaited to hear whether or not their practices and games would continue through poor air quality. Wearing masks during practice to protect from smoke and outright cancellations became routine. Now, athletes face a new challenge: extreme heat.
Acalanes athletic programs must adjust their schedules this week to accommodate temperatures in Lafayette as high as 110 degrees in order to minimize the health risk for athletes. On Sept. 2, Principal Eric Shawn sent an email to all Acalanes students, staff, and parents that contained a warning about possibly adjusting athletic activities due to the high temperatures.
“We have begun to see a heatwave that may impact activities and athletics at school. We are monitoring the temperature and are following these common sense guidelines from Contra Costa County. We will be working with our Activities Director and our Acalanes Athletic Directors to ensure all after-school advisors and coaches have a plan to modify their activities accordingly,” Shawn said in the email.
Acalanes currently follows Contra Costa County Health Services’ (CCCHS) guidelines for physical activity in the heat. According to the CCCHS, all athletic activities must stop if it is warmer than 105 degrees outside with the exception of air-conditioned indoor practice. Activity can continue when the temperature is between 100 and 105 degrees, but coaches must moderate all activity. Between 95 and 99 degrees, activities can continue with caution, and coaches do not need to moderate activity below 95 degrees.
Several programs have altered their practice schedules in order to accommodate these guidelines and protect student health.
“Cross country [has] stages of temperature, and they said, ‘At this temperature, we’re just done. At this temperature. We’re on the track. Only if it’s below this temperature, then we can run off campus.’ Tennis has moved their practices to the evening … Football has made adjustments where, today they are not going to try to go outside at all,” Athletic Director Randy Takahashi said.
Student athletes find that adjusting their practices for extreme heat is necessary. While they wish to continue playing, they prioritize their team’s health.
“I think it’s important to keep practicing, especially as we have our regular season coming up, but make sure we are being responsible about playing in the heat. Our practices have also been shortened by 30 minutes, so we get the practice but it’s not too long where it could negatively affect our health,” tennis player and senior Martha Burns said.
Acalanes has some unique advantages in its facilities that allow certain sports to continue practicing while still following guidelines.
“One thing that we’re fortunate [for is that] our Big Gym has a ventilation system which keeps the temperature down and a Small Gym is air conditioned. We’re the only school in the district that has that, so we’re a little more fortunate than the others,” Takahashi said.
Even though girls’ volleyball players have access to air conditioning, they cannot escape the effects of the heat.
“The heat affects me as an athlete a lot, especially because of how tired I get. It can also make it harder to stay hydrated because of how much we all sweat while playing and throughout the day. Our team and sport isn’t extremely affected by the heat, but it definitely has an impact on our energy,” volleyball player and senior Maya Paul said.
Along with the indoor facilities, the tennis courts’ and stadium’s lights also allow for later and cooler practices.
“The high temperatures have affected our schedule because our pre-season match against Berkeley High [School] got canceled, and all our practices this week have been moved back to the evening. I actually enjoy having evening practices because it’s cooler and more exciting to play in the dark under the lights,” Burns said.
Unfortunately, games, practices, and matches have suffered from the high temperatures. Even when athletes may not struggle with the temperature, coaches must take spectators into consideration.
“Even water polo, for example, [has been affected] even though they’re in the water. The boys’ water polo team has a game today and we moved all the times back one hour because it’ll be cooler. You think, ‘Okay, but the boys are in the water,’ but the spectators are not, and so we need to be wary of that. Also we have referees, we have spectators and they’re affected by the heat also,” Takahashi said.
Additionally, these schedule changes also affect other teams and athletes. When the boys’ water polo schedule shifts, so does the girls’ schedule.
“We had to change our practice time today so that the boys could push their game back because of the heat,” water polo player and senior Daylor Williams said. “Practices this week were moved to 6 a.m. because of the heat.”
The high heat may have temporarily derailed sports this week, but athletes look forward to getting back on track with their seasons in more pleasant weather.
“I don’t think [the heat] will affect our season [overall]. It looks like next week, it will be cooling down, which will be nice and more enjoyable to play in,” Burns said.
Featured photo by Juliet Becker, Online Editor-in-Chief