Young athletes try not to wilt in heat

High temperatures a concern for summer camps, but not for kids

July 19, 2006|By SANDY ALEXANDER | SANDY ALEXANDER,SUN REPORTER

While the sun beat down on wide-open playing fields and the temperature flirted with 100, the youth soccer camp schedule went something like this: passing drill, water break, scrimmage, water break, dribbling practice, dousing with a hose, more drills, water break.

"You constantly jam fluids down their throats, even though they don't want to stop [playing]," said Lee Tschantret, a Baltimore Blast player who spent yesterday morning coaching about 40 children ages 5 to 14 on the hot, synthetic surfaces of a soccer park in Ellicott City.

Forget the lure of air conditioning. At youth camps across the state, fees had been paid, plans had been made and parents were counting on a few hours of quiet. So despite the weather, players headed out to lacrosse fields, baseball diamonds, tennis courts and wilderness trails, armed with water bottles, sunscreen and coolers full of ice.

They would face another day of steamy weather in a heat wave that has gripped a large swath of the nation from the Great Plains to the Northeast, prompting Maryland health officials to issue a "hot weather advisory" and some areas to open cooling centers.

For coaches at the Blast soccer camp, the heat complicated the task of teaching fundamental skills while making sure the kids had a good time - and stayed safe.

"If that means sacrificing some of the playing or the skills for water breaks, so be it," said Blast coach Danny Kelly, who oversaw the camp at Covenant Park, an outdoor facility owned by the Soccer Association of Columbia--Howard County. "Every morning, we sit them down and tell them it's OK if they need a break, just let the coaches know. And if your friend doesn't look too good, let us know."

Keyvan Rafei, a pediatric emergency room physician with the University of Maryland Hospital for Children, said strenuous activity is best done in the cooler parts of the day.

"For those who are in camps or otherwise have to be outside, frequent fluid intake is important," he said. "What kind of fluid is very important. Things such as soda and sweet juices are not recommended."

"Parents have to be vigilant," Rafei said, because children often don't drink enough on their own. He also said misting children with water, having them take breaks in the shade, dressing them in loose clothing and applying sunscreen are good suggestions.

Christine King of Ellicott City, who has an 8-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son in the Blast soccer camp, said she was worried when she saw the weather reports, but added that her children seemed pretty resilient at camp on Monday.

Yesterday, she said, "I made sure they had a light breakfast, hydrated as much as they could. ... No matter what you do, they are going to sweat bullets."

She added: "I think it's worth it. My kids, they love sports. ... I think they really look up to [the professionals] and really have a lot of respect for them."

King braved the heat herself yesterday, hanging out on the sidelines of the soccer field. She watched as her daughter, Skylar, tapped a ball between two cones to score a goal, smiled at her mother and mimicked a high-five.

On other fields, players tried to hustle as they passed, headed and blocked the ball in drills and games. After two hours, a dodge ball-style game in which some players kick balls at the others' feet seemed to make them forget the heat as they sprinted and shouted enthusiastically.

Brent Weinberg, 12, of Ellicott City, said he never considered staying home.

"We suck on ice, drink out of water bottles, soak our heads," he said. "Its not a problem if you really like to play."

The 5- to 7-year-olds also seemed unfazed by the heat, in part because they were stationed on the only section of field with some shade and a little breeze.

As one of "the little guys" climbed onto his shoulders and another tried to tackle him, Patrick Healey, a coach with the Blast camp who plays for Towson University, noted that "they are still jumping around, so they're all right."

Leyla Babaturk and four of her friends were not so enthusiastic as they slumped at a picnic table during the 11 a.m. snack break.

"When you go up there [on the turf], you can feel it get hotter," said Babaturk, 15, of Columbia. "We get exhausted pretty quickly."

"You get kind of nauseated," added Cara DiClemente, 14, of Ellicott City.

Both girls said they enjoy the game and like the coaching staff, but DiClemente added, "We're glad [camp] is a half-day. We kind of picked the wrong week."

Even the coach seemed sympathetic.

"It is not ideal conditions," Kelly said. "The most important thing is making sure the kids are OK."

sandy.alexander@baltsun.com

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