Game Change: District Makes New Plan to Keep Players Safe

By Jill Kasparie, Reporter

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By Jill Kasparie

VINTON, Iowa - High Schools across Iowa are getting ready to take the field Friday night for their first games of the year.

All the equipment the players wear, plus the physical exertion, can become a serious danger in the heat.

The players are more than ready to feel the glow of the lights on the field in a couple of days. For now, however, they're definitely feeling the glow of the sun.

"You definitely have to focus extra hard, because if you just lose focus, you are going to get hot and want to quit and you can't do that,” Vinton-Shellsburg Wide Receiver Tanner Spies said.

During practice hydration is key. Coaches are telling students to drink water all day long. They've also pushed practices back, so they start later in the day.

"I carry a gallon of water around school. Everyone laughs, but I'm hydrated, so that's fine,” Spies said.

As students continue to battle Mother Nature's high temperatures at their sweat-filled practices, all eyes are turning to Friday.

"[We] play Benton. We've got a big home opener this year,” Jim Womochil, Vinton-Shellsburg football coach said

School athletics leaders have developed a new plan for the first game. It's all in the name of safety, as the heat drags on.

"The plan is to start the freshman game at 6 p.m. rather than 5 p.m., one hour later, and we're going to reduce the quarters. So, instead of being ten minute quarters, they're going to be eight minute quarters,” Jim Struve, Vinton-Shellsburg Activities Director, said.

Struve said this is the first time the school has made all of these changes for a game. Coaches will also initiate mandatory water breaks.

"We're trying to do everything we can. We've got some mist fans. Some farmers, I believe, are going to let us borrow the mist fans for the sidelines, and hopefully we can get through week one with no heat-related illnesses,” Womochil said.

Coaches said they'll be on the lookout for players who stop sweating, complain of dizziness or are disoriented. Coaches said the varsity game will not have shortened quarters. With the late start for that first, freshman game, athletics leaders said it should be cool enough for students to play the whole game.

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