The Lady Bisons soccer team enters the season picked to finish third in the Great American Conference by the conference’s coaches. However, they have an extra, unscheduled opponent to start the year: the heat.
A season ago, Harding finished with a record of 7-9-3. Over the summer, the women were given a fitness plan to stay in shape. At the beginning of the year, they went through a fitness test, so the coaching staff knows who is prepared for the season.
“They are not game ready when they get here, but they are ready to get game ready,” Dr. Greg Harris, women’s head soccer coach, said.
Junior forward Amelia Grizzell said the team has spent the last three weeks focusing on connecting as a team and building their endurance, while trying to get the technical things right early in the season.
“This preseason, we’ve focused a lot on putting in hard work early, having fun and glorifying God in our everyday practices,” Grizzell said.
During the summer months, the ladies practice in the mornings and evenings to avoid the hottest times of the day. Harris said the morning practices are cooler but tend to get hot towards the end, which is good, since it gives the girls a taste of potential game-time conditions.
“We have to acclimate them to the heat, but we are cautious during pre-season not to just throw them in one hot session after another,” Harris said.
The team takes precaution against the heat with constant hydration, iced towels and frequent breaks. Harris said he attributes most of the precautionary measures to the athletic training staff. The training staff keeps track of the heat index and weather conditions.
“Our athletic trainer is like another coach,” Harris said. “We are in constant communication.”
Harris said they very rarely get to a point where it is too hot to practice. Their main focus is making sure the girls stay hydrated.
Junior athletic training student Caylee Schannuth said her job during practice is to give out water or Powerade and iced towels to the players to keep their body temperature down.
“We’re there for prevention, treatment and rehab,” Schannuth said.
Harris said he tries to replicate games during practice as often as possible, which is why he tries to keep practice going for about an hour and a half, the length of a game. He said he likes to start off with stretching and fitness, so the players do not get worn down.
“I like for them to practice while tired, so they can learn how to think while their body is a little bit fatigued,” Harris said.
Early in the season, the Lady Bisons have seen the results of their hard work. In their first two matches, they have been outscored by a combined 3-0 in the first half, but in the second half, they have tied their opponents 2-2. Their next game is tonight against Missouri Southern State University.
Grizzell said it has been difficult to stay hydrated and energized, but the team does see the advantage to pushing their bodies to become acclimated to the heat, so they are prepared to play a full game. Grizzell said there is still room for improvement, but they have made good use of their training so far and are excited for the season.