• Local football coaches focus on keeping players safe during summer practices

    By: Jonathan Marshall

    Updated:

    MEMPHIS, Tenn. - For Southwind football coach Rahnmann Slocum and his coaching counterparts, death on the field is a harsh reality for the players they coach.

    “Football is a tough guy sport, but we don't want to die over it,” Slocum said.

    Heatstroke is a leading cause of death in football. According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury, there were 2.2 deaths per year between 2014 and 2018. 

    This was down from 3.2 the previous five-year period. Awareness is being raised. 

    “Times have changed,” Slocum said. “I remember even when I was in high school we only had one water break and probably had to fight over the one cooler that we had.”

    The majority of heat-related deaths on the football field involve high schoolers - 90% happen during practice.

    Slocum encourages his players to drink a gallon of water a day. Water breaks with ice down towels are also taken in the shade during workouts.

    The TSSAA mandates equipment be removed if not needed and practice be pushed back if the heat index is between 100 and 104 degrees. 

    All outside activities are shut down if above 104.

    Even the idea of two-a-days has changed over the years. Southwind practices one time a day. 

    “Back in the day two-a-days was a tough man thing,” Slocum said. “But now if you're doing what you're supposed to do and schedule the practice how you're supposed to schedule the practice you can get a lot of things done just in one practice.”

    Slocum said cutting back a little football is worth saving a life.

    “Football is great, but we want them to keep living,” he said. “Because after football they still have a life to live.”

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