For the second time in three days, there were no middle or high school indoor or outdoor athletic events in Suffolk County after a full heat alert was sent out Thursday.
“This is for the safety of the student-athlete,” said Tom Combs, executive director of Section XI, the governing body for Suffolk County interscholastic sports. “We would not want to get anybody hurt, so this is our safeguard for the student-athlete to make sure they are safe, and that validates everything we do.”
Combs said that Suffolk sends a cancellation alert when the heat and humidity surpasses 95 degrees. Suffolk uses Huntington, Smithtown, Miller Place, Bayport and East Hampton to determine temperatures, and Combs said on Thursday that Huntington, Smithtown and Miller Place all registered over the 95-degree index.
It was the fourth full heat alert this season and Combs said this is the “first time I can remember anything like this.” Suffolk also issued a modified heat alert Wednesday, which required frequent water breaks and other safety measures for student-athletes during games and practices.
Although some student-athletes and coaches may be itching to get on the field, Combs said Suffolk will always put the safety of the athletes above everything else.
“There’s nothing we can do about it,” Combs said. “We’re doing what we think is the right thing for the student-athlete and providing as much safety as possible.”
With high school football scheduled to open this weekend, Combs said teams and players shouldn’t have a problem meeting the minimum practice requirement, which is 15 for a team and 14 for an individual, as Suffolk allowed teams to begin practice Aug. 20. Teams can also hold meetings, which would count as a necessary practice prior to the first game of the season.
Nassau does not issue countywide heat alerts, but instead leaves it up to individual schools to make a determination on heat-related cancellations, based on official state guidelines, Section VIII executive director Pat Pizzarelli said.
But Pizzarelli added that the county held a meeting Thursday morning with athletic directors, reminding everyone that the safety of the student-athletes is the top priority and to be smart about holding games or practices.
The state heat policy requires that no outside activity, practice or contest can be held when the real-feel temperature is above 96 degrees. Inside activities should only be held if air conditioning is present.