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Tom Mix, Published August 26 2013

ND high school league sends out two mandatory heat-related guidelines to member schools

FARGO – Count on high school practices and games to be held underneath a microscope during this week’s heat wave in the Red River Valley.

The above-average temperatures and high humidity are causing local high school athletic directors, coaches and student athletes to be on guard against heat exhaustion.

Temperatures in the region are expected to reach the mid-90s Tuesday through Wednesday and in the upper 80s Thursday and Friday.

On Monday, the North Dakota High School Activities Association issued two mandatory heat-related guidelines, which apply to football and boys soccer contests. The guidelines, designed to help ensure safety, were sent to coaches, activities directors and officials.

“We are putting out a reminder to our member schools,” NDHSAA Executive Secretary Sherm Sylling said. “We are requiring mandatory heat-related timeouts for the athletic contests, which would not be charged against the teams competing.”

Tuesday is the North Dakota high school football opener and for the second straight season, it will be met with increased water timeouts.

National guidelines allow officials to call one permissible heat timeout during each quarter of each game played this week. The timeouts should be taken as close to the halfway point of each quarter as possible. Additional hydration breaks may be granted at the discretion of the officials.

“We are concerned about all the activities with the heat,” Sylling said. “But football is a major concern because of helmets, pads and the other equipment involved.”

In regards to boys soccer, officials have been directed to suspend play for a hydration break a minimum of once during each half of each match played this week.

Both procedures will be evaluated on a weekly basis by the NDHSAA until cooler weather arrives.

Earlier this month, the NDHSAA board of directors also approved a recommended policy to help its member schools manage heat and humidity concerns in regards to outdoor and indoor athletic practices.

Those guidelines call for all outdoor activities “practice or play” as well as indoor activities in buildings without air conditioning to be immediately suspended if the heat index reaches 104 degrees.

The Minnesota State High School League posted its heat and humidity guidelines on the front page of its website Monday. Those guidelines call for coaches to keep an eye on the weather conditions, make sure plenty of hydration breaks are taken and pay very close attention to every student athlete participating in both games and practices.

Moorhead High School activities director Dean Haugo said all of the Spuds’ outdoor athletic teams have been adjusting to accommodate for the heat.

“We are modifying considerably with a lot of our activities especially those that are played outdoors,” Haugo said. “We are moving as much indoors to the air conditioning as space allows.

“We are trying to encourage the activities that can’t function entirely inside to watch film inside and minimize the time they are outdoors,” Haugo added. “We are also trying to push those outdoor times back to the cooler time of the day. When they are outdoors we are making sure the trainers have ample water supply and that extended breaks from activity are taken.”

Haugo said the football team was practicing without pads on Monday, the cross country team had moved its practices from the afternoon to the morning for the entire week, and that both the boys and girls soccer teams were practicing indoors on Monday.

As of Monday afternoon, several game times for athletic events in the metro area had been moved.

Three metro soccer matches this week have moved start times from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday, Kindred’s football game against the West Fargo Sheyenne junior varsity has been moved to an 8 p.m. start.

“Heat acclimation is a big thing,” Kindred activities director Perry Piatz said. “We are telling our coaches to use common sense.”

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Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562