Dean Weber’s life was changed forever on a hot, humid Monday early in his career as an athletic trainer at the University of North Carolina. One of his players collapsed of heat stroke that day and died 20 days later.
“Believe me, you don’t want that,” said Weber, assistant director of development for the Razorback Foundation. “It’s hard. It’s the worst thing. It will change your life. So everything you can do to prevent that, please do.”
Weber told his story and gave advice to 375 coaches at the Kendrick Fincher Hydration for Life (KFHFL) Beat the Heat Luncheon on Thursday (July 27) at the John Q. Hammons Convention Center in Rogers. The luncheon was part of the Mercy Northwest Coaches Clinic, a continuing education day for area school coaches from Fayetteville, Bentonville, Rogers, Greenland, Pea Ridge, Decatur and Gravette, sponsored by Mercy Hospital.
Patrick Skinner, director of hospital therapy and sports medicine for Mercy Hospital, said the conference included breakout sessions that covered infectious diseases, nutrition, warm-up and stretching, social media for athletes, concussions and hydration. The luncheon focused on hydration, said Rhonda Fincher, founder and executive director of KFHFL.
“The purpose of the luncheon is to get our mission in front of the coaches,” Fincher said. “We hope coaches remember what they need to do to keep kids safe and work with their schools to make sure that when they’re coming to after school practice, that the kids are hydrated.”
The mission of KFHFL is to “promote proper hydration and prevent heat illness through education and supporting activities.”
In addition to Weber, KFHFL Education Director Kim Mason told coaches about the “Bee Hydrated” curriculum she developed for area elementary schools. The program teaches children at an early age about the importance of hydration with the hope they will use that knowledge as they play sports in the following years. Mason also encouraged high school coaches to have their athletes work with area elementary-aged children to promote proper hydration.
Dr. Brendon McDermott, with the University of Arkansas’ Exercise Science Research Center, shared some of the latest research on heat and hydration. He encouraged coaches to measure their athletes’ individual sweat rates and have them drink accordingly. He also encouraged the use of athletic trainers and told coaches that student athletes are 40 times more likely to survive a potential fatal condition if an athletic trainer is present.
At the conclusion of the luncheon, seven 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 went to Stephen Neal, head football coach at Pea Ridge High School; Kristin Killham, head volleyball coach at Ramay Junior High School; Ashley Riggles, head junior high girls’ basketball coach and assistant high school girls’ basketball coach at Decatur High School; Wayne Levering, boys’ soccer assistant coach at Heritage High School; Stephen Peck, boys’ soccer head coach at Rogers High School; Jody Grant, head football coach at Bentonville High School and Chip Durham, head baseball coach at Bentonville West High School.
Fincher said August is Heat Stroke Awareness Month and the KFHFL will promote awareness during the month. The organization’s gala, A Cool Summer Homecoming, will be held on Aug. 19 at the Fayetteville Town Center. Tickets are $100.