Heat Stress Issues For The Marching Band

Football season is almost here, and it’s not just the players who are warming up with pre-season practice. Any football fan knows the games would not be the same without the support and sounds of the marching band. Our young musicians work hard to make sure their performances are half-time ready and often compete on the national stage march in popular parades. Maintaining adequate health, fitness, and hydration is vital to their success. Here are a few tips to help your band member endure one of the most grueling aspects of their training, summer band camp.

Most marching bands start in early August with “band camp” — all day rehearsals prior to the season opener.

And when normal preseason researsals begin, many bands rehearse during the hottest part of the day, when the football team is not using the field.

As veteran band director Jim Duncan explained: “Most football teams are smart enough to practice in mornings and evenings when they do 2-a-days. That leaves the super hot afternoon for the band to use the football field. Some schools have a secondary field where the band can practice when football is practicing, so they choose mornings or evenings for their field rehearsals. But many schools don’t have that option.”

The National Athletic Trainers Association has a few simple recommendations for marching band rehearsal in the heat.

  • Get acclimatized to the heat by starting routines slowly and building endurance.
  • Wear light or white colored shorts and shirts.
  • Keep hydrated before AND after routines.
  • Stand in the shade during breaks to cool down before and after practices and performances.

Wearing hats is also important, adds Duncan. “Without hats, the sun bakes your head and kids have many more issues.”

Regarding shade, he also recommends having on hand “some big EZ up tents for kids to get in the shade if they start feeling bad.”

Schools that have playing fields with artificial turf pose a special problem.

“Synthetic turf fields have black rubber pellets down in the blades of synthetic grass for cushioning,” Duncan explains. “The problem is, the black rubber pellets absorb heat and make the field 10 degrees warmer than areas around it when in direct sunlight.”

Duncan says that band directors and instructors also need to be mindful of something else.

“We run the rehearsal from the top of the pressbox so that we can see the field well. Up on the box, there is a breeze, and it is a good 15 degrees cooler that the field. So we have to make sure we stay aware that kids on the field are much hotter that we are.”

However, he is quick to point out that even in extreme heat, marching band is perfectly safe. “You just have to use common sense” — and keep these precautions in mind.