Lamar athletes beating the heat

“I’m excited to be back,” said forward Morgan Burden (12).

It’s important for Lamar University’s student-athletes to remain hydrated at all times. It will be even more important in the coming days as LU’s fall sports teams conduct practices on days when the temperature is expected to surpass 100 degrees.

“We make sure that the student-athletes have plenty of water at all times,” said Josh Yonker, LU’s head athletic trainer. “The coaches provide plenty of water breaks during practice sessions.”

LU women’s soccer coach Orlando Cervantes remembers when water breaks weren’t so common for athletic teams.

“It used to be thought needing water during practice was a sign of weakness,” Cervantes said. “Now we know how dangerous that is. We make sure our team has plenty of fluids.”

Adequate hydration maintains body temperature and prevents dehydration. Not having enough fluids can lead to cramping, heat exhaustion, heat stroke and even death.

“You need to stay hydrated throughout the day,” Cervantes said. “You have to have enough fluids throughout the day.”

In addition to water, Lamar University athletes also consume Overtime, a sports drink. Unlike Gatorade or Powerade, Overtime is a sugar-free product.

“The soccer team really seems to like the blue raspberry flavor,” Yonker noted. “That’s by far the most popular flavor.

The Lamar football and soccer teams schedule their practice sessions in an attempt to avoid the hottest portion of the day. However, when the mercury is hovering around the century mark, there aren’t many cool times.

“We’re smart at practice. We keep water at every station, and we take plenty of breaks to give them the opportunity to hydrate,” said head football coach Ray Woodard. “At the same time, there’s only so much you can do. We’re out here in pads, and it’s 100 degrees. That’s part of football – learning to play in the heat.”

Woodard noted the student-athletes are weighed before and after each practice to ensure that they are not losing too much weight, and that they are properly hydrated when returning to practice.

In addition, a good number of Lamar’s soccer games start at 1 p.m. on Sunday, a time where the sun and the heat can be really oppressive.

“It’s not ideal, but we have to adapt to it,” Yonker said. “I’m sure part of the reason for the afternoon games is so that the visiting team can get back home in plenty of time for Monday classes.”

During football game days at Provost Umphrey Stadium, players can keep cool on the sidelines thanks to large electric fans. Yonker said those fans normally aren’t used at practice, but could be if the temperatures climb too high.

Another concern on bright days is the risk of sunburn. Yonker said his department does have some sunblock, but that it was up to each student-athlete to make sure they are properly protected.

“Our student-athletes are smart enough to make sure they wear sunblock,” Yonker said. “We really haven’t had any problems.”

It should be noted that student-athletes also have to avoid overhydrating, which could lead to low sodium levels (hyponatremia). Athletes are told not to drink more water than they sweat. That’s where sports drinks come in, as they contain some sodium.

Woodard said the trainers and assistant coaches have stressed to the student-athletes that they drink the proper fluids and avoid drinking too much soda and similar beverages.

“Our trainers do an outstanding job,” Woodard said. “They really make sure our student-athletes stay safe.”

Okafor signs with Pittsburgh

Former Lamar football standout defensive end Joe Okafor signed a free agent contract with the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers on Aug. 7. The Steelers placed Clifton Geathers on injured reserve, which opened a spot to sign Okafor placing him on the 90-man roster.

“I’m real excited to have this opportunity,” said Okafor. “I actually got the call yesterday (Aug. 6), so I had to grab my stuff and get over here as fast as I could. I had gotten to the point where I felt like maybe my time had passed and I missed my shot.

“When I got here, I signed the contract, and they put me on the 90-man roster, so now it’s up to me to prove what I can do. Everyone wants to hear their name get called during the draft, but in the end all you can ask for is an opportunity, and that is what I’ve been given,” added Okafor.

Okafor started on the Lamar defensive line for three seasons after transferring from Oklahoma State. A versatile athlete, Okafor was moved to tackle as a junior before being moved back to the outside for his senior season. The move was a productive one as Okafor received 2014 Honorable Mention All-Southland Conference recognition after finishing among the league leaders in sacks and tackles for losses.

He played in 35 games during his career, earning 24 starts and recording 68 career tackles, including 32 solo stops. Among his 68 tackles, 13.5 came behind the line of scrimmage, including eight sacks and three quarterback hurries.

Despite losing a lot of starters from the year before, Okafor was a leader on a defense that ranked among the league’s best in 2014. He ended the year with 28 tackles, including six sacks as the Cardinals went on to tie a school record for wins.

“I think it is a great fit for Joe,” said LU defensive line coach Carey Bailey. “He will be used to their terminology and schemes. I spoke with Mike (Tomlin) a while back and I’m glad Joe has been given this opportunity.”


The Lamar women’s soccer team is currently preparing for the 2015 season opener against visiting San Jose State on Aug. 21 at 7 p.m. LU will conduct eight days of two-a-day training sessions over the next 11 days of camp.

“I’m excited to be back,” said forward Morgan Burden, who is one of three seniors on this year’s squad. “I really want my senior year to be special.”

Burden was a freshman on the 2012 LU squad that advanced to the Southland Conference championship game before dropping a 2-1 heartbreaking decision to Stephen F. Austin. After coming so close to LU’s first soccer crown, the Cardinals missed the postseason in each of the past two seasons. Burden will serve as one of the team’s captains this fall.

“We had great senior leadership when I was a freshman. I want to be that type of leader this year,” Burden said. “It wasn’t easy to sit in the stands last season when we hosted the tournament here.”

The 2015 Lamar roster features eight new players as the Cardinals look to replace their top two all-time leading scorers in Kimmy Albeno and Kristin Bos, along with goalkeeper Bailey Fontenot, who set most of LU’s goalkeeping standards.

Senior defender Megan Campbell, who earned academic all-region honors last season, is also a team captain this year. She, too, wants this year to be special.

“These first three years have gone by so quickly,” she said. “I want this final year to be one that we remember.”

Cervantes, who is in his fourth year at the helm of the Cardinals, stressed the importance of accountability and hard work.

“You’re going to have bad days when things aren’t going well, but you can always work hard,” Cervantes said. “If we all work hard, we’re going to be successful.”

Burden told the freshmen that they are joining a special family by being a part of the Cardinals.

“Freshman year should be fun,” she said. “It’s going to be hard work, but you’re going to develop lifelong friendships.”

Redshirt sophomore midfielder M.J. Eckart is the third captain on this year’s unit. She remembered what it was like being a freshman, and hopes to use that knowledge to help this year’s newcomers make the transition to Division I soccer and college life.

“I was so shy when I first came here. I didn’t say anything,” she recalled. “But everybody helped me feel as part of the family. Now it’s my turn to help the new players.”

Softball camp

Head coach Holly Bruder and assistant Allison Honkofsky will hold a softball camp at the new Lamar Softball Complex on campus near Vincent-Beck Stadium on Sunday, Aug. 16, at 9 a.m. for ages 6-12.

An elite all-skills camp for ages 13 and older is scheduled Saturday, Aug. 22, at 9 a.m. All campers must provide their own meals and bring cleats, athletic shoes and their own helmets, bats, gloves and catchers gear. Offensive skills will be taught from 9-11 a.m. An infield and outfield session will run from noon – 2 p.m., and a session for pitchers and catchers is scheduled for 3-5 p.m. The cost of the all-skills camp is $60 per session.

A prospect scrimmage camp for players 13 and older will be held Sunday, Aug. 23, beginning at 10:30 a.m. All players participating in the prospect scrimmage camp are guaranteed to play in at least two games, playing at both a primary and secondary position. Teams will be put together by the Lamar coaching staff, and games will begin at noon. The cost of the prospect scrimmage camp is $100 per player.

For more information, call (409) 880-7448.



— Compiled by Chad Cooper