Drought Turns Practice Fields Into Injury Risks

Nick Lawton
NewsWest 9

PERMIAN BASIN - Taking a big hit on the field could now take a bigger toll on football players. The drought is now turning its sights on Fall football, mainly dry practice fields.

"It's rock-hard," Midland ISD Director of Athletics, Todd Howey, said. "It's a big concern for us. We start junior high football here in a couple of weeks, and we'll have 200 kids out here running around, and right now we don't have the coverage that we need to have a safe environment."

For MISD, they've already lost both their baseball fields to the drought.

Howey met NewsWest 9 out on the field at San Jacinto Junior High School in Midland, which is watered twice a week.

Still, at least a dozen large, bare patches of rock-hard ground were found there.

Howey said San Jacinto is just like all their other junior high fields, with their high school practice fields also suffering.

Midland and Midland Lee's main practice fields received a variance to water four times a week in July.

They've applied for another variance for August, but haven't gotten word back yet from the city.

The rock-hard practice fields lead to harder landings, which could lead to more injuries.

"We're going to be careful how we run our practices," Howey said. "Do we have as much contact? Do we tackle as much as we generally do in practices? We want to try to keep kids safe, but then you run the risk of not being prepared to play football, so it's a tough deal."

Odessa High Football Coach Ron King said his two-a-days begin next week.

He said his mind is on injuries every time they take to their dry practice field.

"Part of the problem with not having a properly watered field is you'll have quite a few injuries with shoulder and collar bones breaking, wrists, elbows, possibility of lower limbs being broken. It's something that we have to consider every time we go out on the field," King said.

Odessa High was denied a waiver to water their fields more than twice a week, so now they're applying for variances.

They're not alone, Big Spring ISD officials told NewsWest 9 they received variances for Big Spring High's practice and main fields to water twice a week instead of once.

All three districts are trying to come up with a plan, whether it means practicing more elsewhere or adopting softer turf.

"We've talked in the past of hopefully getting some play-safe turf put in at Coleman Field and Permian's field," King said. "Just to cut down on the maintenance of the field. Those would really help tremendously at each one of our campuses."

Midland ISD is set to meet this week on their plan, because not only football but other Spring sports are also at risk.

"With our baseball, softball, and soccer fields, they generally plant rye grass in the Winter. Well, that's out, because you can't water rye. You've got to water rye grass almost every day," Howey said. "You're looking this Spring at playing on completely dead fields in those sports, so it's a big concern."

For the safety of the kids, school officials said they continue to pray for rain.