Wet-bulb globe temperature readings help determine how Alief ISD football players practice

Adam Winkler Image
Thursday, August 24, 2023
New guidelines, turf aid Alief ISD in quest to keep football players safe
Alief ISD and Hastings High School have new guidelines, including a wet-bulb globe temperature rubric, to allow football players to practice

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Tomas De la Rosa has spent much of his life outdoors, but he can rarely recall in his life when it was this hot for this long.

"It's unexplainable," De la Rosa admitted during an interview with ABC13. "I grew up on a farm, working with farm equipment, and this is nothing like what it was back then."

Because times and temperatures have changed, De la Rosa, who's the head football coach at Alief Hastings High School, has also adjusted the way his team practices.

"We're going to do what we have to do to keep them safe," the coach said of taking precautions to keep his student-athletes safe.

And that vow is exactly what Tanya Onwuchuruba not only wants to hear but needs to hear. Two of her sons currently play football for Hastings.

"As a parent, we want our kids to be here, and we trust them in the coach's care. So we want them to come back the same way," she shared. "I'm thanking God that the athletic director and coach are taking the necessary precautions."

SEE ALSO: High school football player dies during summer workout

In addition to the staff ensuring players eat and hydrate throughout the school day, the Hastings Bears players take frequent breaks during the workout. In perhaps the biggest shift, Alief ISD football programs are practicing according to the wet-bulb globe temperature for the first time, which is a recommendation from the University Interscholastic League (UIL).

As ABC13 meteorologist Elyse Smith explains it, the wet bulb globe temperature pinpoints heat-related stress on the human body while in direct sunlight. Unlike heat index, the wet-bulb globe temperature takes multiple atmospheric variables into account and dictates when and how the team practices. The temperature is tracked in various ways during the workout, including through trainer Nicki Lane's handheld device.

"(We decide) whether the guys should have shoulder pads on or whether the guys should come out just helmet and shorts," Lane said, when describing some of the determinations made after measuring the wet-bulb globe temperature. "If it gets too hot, we have a certain number and we go inside."

While the atmosphere determines when Hastings can be on the field, the field itself is making an impact, too. The newly-installed turf at Crump Stadium is said to be 15 to 20 degrees cooler than the old surface.

"The old turf, I think it probably insulated heat," Hastings 11th-grade football player, Micah Onwuchuruba, Tanya's son, pointed out. "The more we're standing on it, working on it, my feet would get burnt up. The new turf is a good change."

Coaches, more than just about anybody else, live in the present. They're constantly reminding their teams to take it one game at a time. However, this heat not only has De la Rosa thinking back to his time on the farm, he's also looking ahead to cooler days.

"Sixty, 70 degrees - I'm looking forward to it," De la Rosa admitted. "Just so we can keep that consistency of practicing and not having to come off. At the end of the day, we know what it is: it's safety."

For more sports news, follow Adam Winkler on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

SEE ALSO: Houston's extreme heat becomes needed backdrop for UH Cougars' workouts before Big 12 debut

Five days a week in the oppressive heat, the Cougars go to work. And they'll need it as they count down to their Big 12 debut.