It’s tough enough getting ready for high school football season, but harder still when coaches are prohibited from putting their teams on the field outdoors for practice.
The poor air quality in the region – reported to be the worst in the nation on Monday morning – affects everyone, especially when authorities are telling folks to avoid going outside if at all possible.
That includes area high school sports teams itching to get out on the practice fields.
Football practice in Washington started last Wednesday; Idaho started on Aug. 6. But due to the smoke blanketing the region the past couple of weeks, coaches have been leading drills and conditioning inside air conditioned gyms rather than dusty practice fields. Some are even traveling to locations that might not be quite as smoky to borrow facilities.
The Air Quality Index (AQI) for the city of Spokane on Monday morning reached 382 – out of a 1-500 scale – according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Now website. Any reading over 300 is considered hazardous, and the EPA suggests all residents should remain indoors.
High school teams are not allowed to practice or play outside if the AQI is 150 or above, which it has been for the better part of two weeks.
At 6 p.m. on Monday, when many teams would normally be wrapping up an afternoon practice, the index read 162.
The index ranged wildly across the region, but all at unhealthy levels.
In the Greater Spokane League, if the index breaches 150 in the area of any of the member schools, all are prohibited from going outside.
The league has allowed an hour of outdoors practice since Wednesday. Mt. Spokane coach Terry Cloer said on Friday that there have been a couple of days on the north side of town where the air quality reading was acceptable, but not so downtown.
Darin Reppe, coach at Wilbur-Creston, said conditions in his area were about the same.
“We made it outside on Saturday as the AQI was 86, but that is the only day thus far,” he said. “(We’re) hoping it will clear up, but certainly not too optimistic at this point.”
The Coeur d’Alene team got creative and ventured to Kellogg last week for a couple of days of practice. Their practice options are further limited by construction going on at their gymnasium.
Idaho starts play on Aug. 24 and Washington begins play the following week – conditions permitting.