High school football season began with preseason games around the area on Thursday and Friday -- two of the hottest days in months.
Those preseason openers came a week after a Sebastian River High School football player died after a team workout in Camp Blanding. He had complained of physical problems during practice and later died at the hospital.
Friday was the opening game for the newly named Westside High School, formerly Forrest High, which traveled to Fleming Island High. While the coaches were focused on players running the right routes and not missing tackles, they were also focused on the Florida heat.
“We've actually been hydrating since January,” Fleming Island coach Frank Hall said. “We put a big emphasis on it, make sure that they're drinking plenty of fluids throughout the week. We have a trainer here every single day that's keeping cool towels off, so as soon as we see any distress (we can take care of it).”
The Sebastian River case was a reminder to local coaches to focus on hydrating constantly, and to pull any player immediately, if he complains of any sort of physical problem.
“We sit them out,” Westside High coach Rodney DuBose said. “We have a trainer. Nothing's more important than the kid at the end of the day. There's no battle. There's no warring of the mind, no conflict there. If a kid's got a problem, it's about the kid first.”
It's not just coaches hammering that mindset home. Latoya Smenda has two sons playing at Fleming Island. She said they're not allowed to play or practice without a healthy amount of water.
“They both have a gallon water jug, and it is mandatory that they fill it up every time it gets empty,” Smenda said. “They have to drink, drink, drink.”
And it's not just Fleming Island High and Westside High, News4Jax has been to other schools in our area in recent weeks that have been re-iterating to their players to let an adult know if they're experiencing any sort of health problem.