Local sports teams dealing with heat in opening week

For the second year, the start of the fall sports season has been greeted by a heat wave.

As games and were scheduled to get under way this week for most sports, temperatures were forecast in the mid-to-upper 90s every day of the week. That includes a forecasted high of 91 on Thursday, when the Watertown-Mayer football team is scheduled to host Rockford in its season opener at 7 p.m.

Last year, heat was also a factor in the season-opener between Rockford and Watertown. With the Royals on the road for that game, the game time was pushed back from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. so as to allow temperatures to cool before game time. As of press time, there were no plans to change the game time of Thursday’s contest in Watertown, but athletic director Mary Haugen told the school board on Monday that coaches, trainers and staff have talked extensively this week about how to prepare for the weather not just in football, but in other outdoor sports as well.

“Heat is on everybody’s mind,” Haugen said. “I feel really good about the plan we have in place. It’s proactive. Our trainer will be on site at varsity games, and she’s already talked to coaches about what she wants to have on the sideline. Extra water, ice, cold towels, things like that. I think it will go fine.”

The heat did force once cancellation earlier in the week, then the Watertown-Mayer cross country team was scheduled to compete in a Minnesota River Conference scrimmage at Baylor Park in Norwood Young America at 3 p.m. With temperatures in the mid-90s, however, that meet was cancelled.

“It wasn’t proper conditions, and since it was just a scrimmage, we didn’t need to have it,” Haugen said.

The boys’ and girls’ soccer teams were also scheduled to play games this week, and just like for Thursday’s football game, Haugen said referees and officials would do their part to keep athletes safe.

“We already communicated with officials, and officials’ associations have talked with their own groups,” Haugen said. “There will be more officials time outs this week for water breaks.”

Haugen said the varsity football team was using a tool on the Minnesota State High School League to help determine if and at what time of day the team should be practicing based on humidity, heat index, and a variety of other weather factors. She said the team’s coaches made plans early in the week to practice without pads much of the time and get players into shorts and t-shirts by the end of practice.

The B and C football teams both were scheduled to play Wednesday. Haugen said those coaches were also encouraged to make smart decisions, even if it meant calling a game before it was officially over.

“If they need to quit after three quarters, they’ll quit,” Haugen said.