“Don’t drink too much of that water!” yelled my little league coach. “It’ll make you sick!” How many of you out there are old enough to remember those words? That was the belief in the days I grew up in. I can remember many a hot and humid day that as one of my teammates or I approached the water fountain, we heard that admonishment. And it wasn’t just water; it could have been Gatorade if it had been invented yet. Basically any cool or cold fluid on a warm stomach was bad for you. Now, our coaches weren’t being mean or sadistic, they honestly believed that when we were hot, too much water would make us sick. We were only allowed a few swallows of water at a time. As I got into high school a few years later, the attitude hadn’t changed. Too much water on a hot stomach would make you sick.
I remember when I was a sophomore in high school and we were going through double sessions in August. The temperatures were 90 plus, it was humid, and of course, we were in full gear. Full gear on the first day of practice and not a cloud in the sky. The rule of shorts and t-shirts the first three days was years away. Now you say “But coach, you guys were in pretty good shape from your summer workouts, right?” Nope. Our coaches didn’t have any summer workouts in place so we were out of shape! We had a practice field next to our high school that had an old cinder track around it and half of the cinders always wound up on our field. The ground was hard and dusty with a little grass on it. When we practiced, the dust would fly. So you can imagine what we looked like within half an hour of practice. The flying dust stuck to our sweaty faces and caked around our mouths. The cinders from the track had us cut and bleeding so the blood was mixed in with sweat and dust. In no time at all we would be parched. I would be so thirsty my tongue would stick to all sides of my mouth. Instead of talking, I could only croak. Halfway through a two or three hour practice, we would receive our much anticipated water break. Out marched a couple of coaches with two metal pails full of ice. We got into two long lines and were allowed one handful of ice. Yes, one handful of ice because remember, TOO MUCH WATER ON A HOT STOMACH WILL MAKE YOU SICK! The coaches made sure to remind us of the favor they were doing for us by limiting our water intake. We were very thankful for their reminder. Sophomores were at the end of the line, so by the time we got our handful, the seniors and juniors had already dipped in with their dirty, dusty hands. When my turn came, all that was left in the bottom of the pail was kind of a muddy, slushy ice. I’d reach in eagerly and get my handful. And you know what? It was the best tasting drink of water I ever had. I savored every drop. Only trouble was, I was still thirsty as ever when I finished. Obviously, it wasn’t nearly enough. After practice it was time for salt tablets. On my first day of practice I had never seen a salt tablet in my life. I wasn’t sure what to do with the darn things. I tried sucking on them but that was horrible. Next I tried chewing them and eating them like candy. That was bad too. Finally I figured out that you take them like aspirin. I usually downed two or three and didn’t ask questions. I certainly didn’t want to look like I didn’t know what I was doing, did I? After the morning practice I would go home, lie on the couch, and wait for the late afternoon practice.
Looking back, I really don’t know how someone didn’t get some kind of heat stroke. I was a little guy, so the heat didn’t get to me like it probably got to the big guys. We had a few guys that were big and very overweight. I think we were very lucky to avoid a dangerous situation. Back then though, we didn’t even think about it. In fact, I don’t remember any other schools in the area or the state having any problems. But, then again, they probably got 3 or 4 swallows of water compared to our handful of ice. It was a different time, a different era.
These days we always made sure we gave the kids plenty of water, and on especially hot days the kids would be given a few extra minutes to hang out at the water hole to cool down a little as they got a good drink. We would give three water breaks and allow kids to get a quick drink in between reps. My old coaches would have been surprised that in the 28 years of my coaching, I don’t recall one kid ever getting sick from that doggone water! Let’s not even get into the subject of possible lawsuits, but we can all imagine what would happen if we if we even came close to the old days. Rather than salt tablets, I would suggest replacing the lost sodium and potassium by eating salty tortilla chips, salted pretzels or the like accompanied with generous amounts of fluids. Bananas are a good source of potassium also. Sometimes not enough water is taken with tablets and the chips or pretzels make you thirsty so you’ll drink more. You may have your own methods, but I’m sure we all agree that staying hydrated is essential. The first weeks of practice are really hot and we have to be very careful. Take care of ‘em coaches.
All this talk about double sessions reminds me, it’s about that time, isn’t it? I know you’re all excited and ready to go! Thanks to sites like www.chiefpigskin.com we can all stay connected and keep learning. I’m excited for you and can’t wait for the season to begin. There’s a lot of teaching and coaching to be done, so go to it. As for me, I’m getting me a big glass of ice water right now and I’m drinking all I want!