- Peter Yoon, ESPNLosAngeles.com
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SAN BERNARDINO -- The dreaded two-a-days aren’t so dreaded this year at UCLA training camp.
Those grueling sessions in which football teams strap on their gear early in the morning, bang bodies for two hours and then go right back at it in the evening begin Thursday for the UCLA, but the Bruins are very much looking forward to them because they offer somewhat of a respite from the brutal heat at Cal State San Bernardino.
The temperature reached 104 at the start of practice Wednesday, about 5 degrees cooler than on Tuesday but still plenty hot enough to have the team dreaming about the high 80s they’re likely to encounter at 8:30 Thursday morning.
The second session will be at 5 p.m., an hour later than Wednesday’s start time, and temperatures should be heading below 100 by then.
“Sometimes you dread two-a-days, but you come out here at 8:30 in the morning and that will help,” coach Jim Mora said. “And back out at 5 will help.”
It should also help lighten the workload of UCLA’s training and medical staff. Two doctors are on site to attend to UCLA players, and Mora said they were “overwhelmed” earlier in the week.
UCLA practiced Monday at 2:45 p.m. and the temperature hovered around 105 the entire practice. Six players required medical attention because of heat illness, so Mora moved practice to 4 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Only two players left with heat-related issues each of those days, a result of the changed practice time as well as the players' beginning to adapt to the extreme heat.
“I think everyone is trying to get used to it,” cornerback Andrew Abbott said. “At the beginning, it’s a little sluggish, but I think we hit that point where it’s, 'OK, I have to go.' There are some guys out there who are still just surviving, but they’ll come along as the days go on.”
The team is taking necessary precautions. The training staff is continually running out bottles of cold water and sports drinks and the coaches are providing frequent breaks. The entire team has had a “popsicle” break the past two days in which they down a frozen recovery drink.
They also have a protocol in place to help heat-stricken players recover. First, the players soak in an ice tub, then they return to the training room for an IV and drink fluids until they are urinating normally. Players who leave practice because of heat issues are not allowed to practice the following day.
“The thing about the heat is you just have to stay on top of it all the time and I think our medical staff, our trainers have done just an amazing job,” Mora said. “We’ve had issues, but we have not had any major issues.”
Abbott said the payoff will be worth it. UCLA opens its season Aug. 30 at Rice, where heat and humidity can run pretty high. Getting through two weeks in San Bernardino will make the team tougher in Houston, Abbott said.
“It’s tough, but it’s good for us,” Abbott said. “It’s hot, but it’s nothing we can’t handle. You just have to push through and be smart about it. This is the time when we win games; either you push through it or you feel sorry for yourselves.”
The good news, Abbott said, is that hardly anybody is feeling sorry for themselves.
“I haven’t heard anyone really complaining about it,” he said. “Guys are just getting after it like it’s the norm. That’s a good thing, because I think in years past guys would have complained about it, and nobody is doing that.”