For kids, parents sweat it out

Mad dogs and Englishmen aren't the only ones going out in the midday sun. They have plenty of company from the devoted parents of young athletes.

July 28, 2005|By Gina Davis | Gina Davis,SUN STAFF

Huddled under a beach umbrella, Ivy Davy savored the sliver of shade she had claimed for herself as she watched her daughter's swim competition yesterday.

Every now and then, she wandered closer to poolside to cheer for her daughter, Kaydra Davy-Coore, 11 - and, if she was lucky, to catch a splash as the swimmers dived into the water.

Surviving on the sweltering sidelines involved a bit of ingenuity for the estimated 1,500 parents, coaches and spectators cheering on more than 800 swimmers. The marathon meet involved 44 swim clubs from across the state for the Central Maryland Swim League championships at the South Carroll Swim Club in Winfield.

Whether it's devising methods to stay cool at swim competitions, Little League games or rugby tournaments, parents are finding ways to brave the elements at sporting events as they rally behind their children.

"We do this to let them know we love them," said DeeDee Lake of Fort Meade. "To come out in 100-degree weather for a 19-second swim, that's love."

For the third day in a row, temperatures in the Baltimore area reached at least the mid-90s, with the heat index - what the air outside feels like - hitting 105 degrees.

But the Lake family came prepared for the swim club's scarcity of shade. After years of attending their children's sporting events, they have sidelines survival down to a science.

When Lake and her husband, Seth, accompany their children, Seth Jr., 10, and Gabrielle, 14, to sporting events, they bring the family's pop-up tent, plenty of liquids - mostly water and Gatorade - and fruits and vegetables for snacks. They also pack water bottles with fans attached for misting.

The Lakes stumbled across something new to add to their weather arsenal - the $12 "Kool Tie." It is a fabric scarf filled with polymer crystals, which swell after being soaked in water. The tie works by cooling the blood vessels in the neck.

"For the swimmers, it's not that bad," said Rachel Fishbain, head coach for Davy-Coore's team, the Mariner Point Swim Club in Joppatowne, and also head coach at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club. "It's all us spectators who are melting on the sidelines."

Parents had been warned that the swim club, located between two cornfields, has no shade and that they should pack accordingly, said Colleen Gallagher, South Carroll's parent team representative. They were advised to bring pop-up tents or beach umbrellas.

"We call it Tent City," Gallagher said of the dozens of tents that dotted the club's grounds.

Other methods of relief were left to parents' imaginations.

For Julie Pacione of Ellicott City, that meant struggling to attach a chair umbrella to a borrowed dolly that she positioned behind one of three lawn chairs she had packed.

"We've had a trying time," she said as she wearily eyed the unsteady umbrella. "But you learn new tricks - anything to keep cool."

Pacione, whose daughters Alina, 9, and Alyssa, 11, have been members of the Forest Hill Swim & Tennis Club for three years, said that spending long days in blistering heat and suffocating humidity goes hand-in-hand with being the parent of an athlete.

"That's what you do for your kids," she said. "A good parent does things like this - and it's not pleasant sitting out here for hours."

Fred Engh, founder and president of the National Alliance for Youth Sports, said it is important for spectators and athletes to stick to "common sense" solutions for outdoor activities.

"We find a lot of serious heat illnesses because of ignorance," said Engh, whose organization stresses safety in youth sports. "One of the things that's extremely important is hydration" for parents and athletes.

"Parents have to make sure their children are getting enough water breaks," he said. "The rule of thumb is, children should get all the water breaks they need, not because they're thirsty but because they need it to cool their bodies."

Spectators should find an easier time on the sidelines in the coming days, with the National Weather Service forecasting temperatures in the lower 80s.

For the Lake family, that's welcome news.

"We'll be starting soccer [tomorrow]," Lake said. "Out there on the [soccer] field, it's hot. ... Then all of a sudden, it's the cold season, and you're out in the cold."

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