ORONO, Maine — The water and Powerade flowed freely Monday afternoon on the sidelines at Morse Field.
The University of Maine Black Bears were tackling significant heat and humidity, rather than each other, during the football team’s first preseason practice on the FieldTurf of Alfond Stadium.
Coach Jack Cosgrove and his staff afforded the players frequent water breaks, resulting in thirsty crowds around the coolers.
“We try and stress to always be drinking something, whether it’s water or Gatorade,” said senior offensive lineman Josh Spearin of Limington. “They’ve got electrolyte pills and we try to take those.”
Football players fully expect to be faced with considerable heat during training camp in August. The key to handling exertion, especially on hot days, is hydration.
UMaine’s coaches and athletic trainers closely monitor the student-athletes’ water loss and fluid intake to minimize the potential for heat-related illness.
Trainer Ryan Taylor explained water and Powerade are made readily available to the players, whether at Wells Commons, in the locker room or during daily meetings.
“That’s how we decrease heat exhaustion and muscular heat cramping,” said Taylor, who outlined UMaine’s strict guidelines for monitoring the players’ fluid intake.
Since perspiration results in loss of water weight, the players must weigh in before and after each day of practice.
“Every pound of fluid they lose, they have to drink 24 ounces of Powerade or water — we push Powerade — to replace it,” Taylor said.
Players are expected to drink enough fluids to replace most of the weight lost through perspiration before the next day’s practice.
“If a guy loses four or five pounds of body weight, if he hasn’t replaced 90 percent — or 80 percent in some cases, depending on how much it was — then we hold him from the next practice because they’re dehydrated,” Taylor said.
Senior offensive lineman Chris Howley recalled his first preseason in Orono, four years ago.
“I ended up being dehydrated really bad one day; had heat exhaustion,” he said. “I didn’t drink enough water and I lost way too much weight way too fast and didn’t get it back in my system. I think I learned from that pretty well.”
Anyone who encounters a football player on campus for the next three weeks is likely to notice a common trend. The athletes almost always will be toting a bottle of Powerade or water.
Taylor said the football program spends more than $3,000 per year to provide beverages after practices. That doesn’t count game days or regular meals.
The first few days of training camp are designed to help players transition to the strenuous nature of practice and prepare them for the increased physical demands of full contact.
“Everyone’s yelling, hooting and hollering, ready to get back into it,” Spearin said. “These few days before we put the pads on, it’s more of having the equipment back on: The knee braces, the cleats, the ankle wraps, helmets; just getting back into it.”
That assumes most players have adhered to their summer workout schedule.
Taylor said many of the injuries he sees early in training camp are noncontact injuries suffered by first-year players, some of whom might not be physically prepared to make the jump to Division I practice.
Most players suffer football-related injuries that are the result of contact.
The heat will be more intense as the Black Bears increase the amount of equipment they wear. The veterans say it will be a welcome feeling.
“It feels awesome to get back on the field, get the helmet on,” Howley said. “I can’t wait to put the pads back on and actually start hitting.”