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HomeSportsUT
Published: Friday, 8/22/2003

Rockets plan on hot start

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Someone might give you that old “but it's a dry heat” line - but rest assured it is going to be stinking hot, no matter how you dress it up.

Toledo coach Tom Amstutz has been acclimating his team over the past couple of weeks in training camp, preparing them to do battle in a blast furnace, if necessary. Yesterday, with temperatures here over 90 degrees and the Ohio humidity weighing on them like a concrete overcoat, the Rockets were at it again, preparing for that opener in Las Vegas.

“We've been out working in the heat, in the hot part of the day, enough times so that I think the players are adjusted to that,” Amstutz said.

“We know we will likely be playing in very hot conditions, at least at the start of the game, and we want to be ready for that. If you can practice in it, you can play in it, so it should not really be an issue by game time.”

Amstutz said the UT coaches and training staff take every precaution to protect the players from the possible harmful effects of the heat, and monitor them closely throughout the two-hour practices.

“The players get water all of the time - they are always free to go get water,” he said. “We also keep a supply of snacks and sports drinks on hand, and we make a point of making sure they are getting plenty of fluids before, during and after practice.”

Amstutz said that as a means of monitoring the impact of the heat and humidity, the Rocket players weigh in before and after each practice.

“We are very conscious of the conditions, and what needs to be done to protect the players and keep them healthy,” he said. “If you are aware of the conditions and take the proper steps to deal with those conditions, you should be OK. You want to be aware of the heat, but not let it be the only thing you think about.”

Amstutz said that opening in Las Vegas in August will present its own challenges, but he finds the local weather in Nevada to be less of an issue than if the Rockets were getting ready to play in Orlando or Gainesville.

“People joke about it, but the dry heat is a different type of thing,” he said. “This is not like playing in Florida, or like playing here at 2 in the afternoon in August. It is the desert, but the humidity can sometimes be tougher on you than the heat. And we have dealt with humidity almost every day in camp.”

Amstutz thinks he will have a team that is conditioned and fresh when it gets off the plane in Las Vegas. While the NCAA this year mandated a reduction in the traditional two-a-day practices that were the norm in college football for a long time, the Rockets have been ahead of that trend under Amstutz.

After a rash of heat-related incidents and several deaths in college and pro camps in recent years, the NCAA allows teams to use two-a-days only every other day in preparation for the coming season.

“The last two years, that is exactly how we chose to do it, so the new rule had minimal impact on us,” Amstutz said. “We decided that it would help our players be fresher and more physically ready to play early in the season if we followed that schedule. There is a balance between having enough time to make sure you have everything covered, and being able to be fresh enough for the first couple of games, and be able to last through a long season. We cut back on the actual on-field practice time as a way to improve our game performance.”

The Rockets will take today off from the practice field, and then start tomorrow morning on their regular game-week preparation for UNLV. The team travels to Las Vegas on Thursday.

“We expect it to be a 100-degree day out there, Amstutz said. “But it is not something we are all that concerned about, because we feel like we have conditioned and prepared ourselves for it. That kind of heat in the desert will not be much different from the days we've practiced here in 90-degree temperatures and humidity. If it's hot, it's hot, and we'll be ready for it.”



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