Rhonda Fincher lost her son to heat stroke 20 years ago and has worked since then to educate coaches, parents and athletes on the importance of proper hydration. Her work continued on Thursday (July 30) as the Kendrick Fincher Hydration For Life (KFHFL) foundation, held its Beat the Heat Luncheon during the Mercy Coaching Summit at the John Q. Hammonds Convention Center in Rogers.
More than 325 coaches from across Northwest Arkansas, along with other community leaders, came together over lunch to support the mission of the KFHFL and to learn how to promote proper hydration and prevent heat illness.
“Heat illness is 100 percent preventable, if the proper procedures are followed,” Fincher said.
As the keynote speaker, Brett Bielema, head football coach of the University of Arkansas Razorbacks, stressed to attendees how important hydration is for his own players.
“The number one cause of an injury is usually some type of dehydration,” Bielema told the crowd. “Any type of muscle issue, any type of strain… a lot of times it gets down to your body begins to break down, which leads to dehydration.”
Bielema gave the coaches three suggestions he uses to help keep athletes hydrated. Players weigh in before and after every practice, wearing the same clothing. Their weight loss is monitored and they rehydrate accordingly. Second, he provides drinking cups for his athletes instead of squeeze bottles.
“It’s unbelievable because the kids will drink twice as much water (from a cup) as they do when they have to squeeze it out of a jug,” Bielema said.
Third, he has players get in the cold tub after practice.
“That’s huge for us in quick recovery,” he said.
Bielema also told the crowd that he sets up a tent with hydration fans for the players.
“We make our players go under it every 30 minutes of practice, to lower their core body temperature a couple of degrees and give them five minutes in the shade,” he said. “Hydration and a cool breeze goes a long, long way and makes our practices that much more effective.”
In addition to Bielema, Eric Howerton, with Whyte Spyder, shared his personal experience with heat stroke; and Dr. Brendon McDermott, with the Human Performance Lab at the University of Arkansas, shared the latest research and new technologies in the field of heat illness.
At the conclusion of the event, five area coaches received Hydration Hero awards for “their outstanding effort to educate and carry through with excellent procedures for hydration education and heat illness prevention.” The awards, presented by Leader Craft, went to Shane Holland, Decatur Bulldogs; Matt Easterling, Pea Ridge Blackhawks; Rob Bray, Rogers Mounties; Nick Nersesian, Bentonville Tigers and Bobby Crockett, Fayetteville Bulldogs.
Awards included a cash award of $100 to each school to pay for hydration equipment and education and a $50 gift card to each recipient, donated by the following restaurants: Tavola, Table Mesa Greenhouse Grille and Sassy’s Red House.
Fincher said August is Heat Stroke Awareness month. The luncheon was the first of several events for the KFHFL, with the most important being the annual gala, “A Cool Summer Homecoming, on Aug. 22, at the Town Center in Fayetteville. Backroad Anthem will provide entertainment and a homecoming king and queen will be crowned. Tickets are available at the Kendrick Fincher website.