MESQUITE, Texas — Mesquite Poteet High School football coach Rodney McLain greets each of his junior varsity and varsity players as they arrive for practice on Tuesday afternoon.
For McLain, who's been at the helm for Poteet football for five years, it's a special day not many of his players know about.
Twelve years ago on Aug. 1, McLain's father, Wade, died from a heat-induced heart attack at 56 years old after coaching a football practice.
"I saw him at the practice, told him I loved him and would see him at the house," McLain said. "About 45 minutes later, my mom called and said dad went down. They took him to the hospital, but he never made it."
McLain's dad had been a football coach for over 35 years, spending time in fieldhouses all over Texas. If one hot day can end that, McLain knows he's not just competing against another football program in another town but also against the heat.
Thankfully, this season, Mesquite ISD has given him a game-changer that's very good at blocking -- the sun.
"What happened to my dad gave me a different perspective," McLain said. "Having something like this gives a sense of assurance that you are constantly worried about."
Towering over Poteet's practice field is a cover or pavilion that shades the entire field. It was built before the season and lowered temperatures, per McLain, by 20-25 degrees.
All five high schools in Mesquite ISD will have one by the end of 2023. It's cheaper than having to build indoor facilities, and there's a nice breeze that flows through the field.
"Normally, you're out there in the sun and miserable," McLain said. "We've averaged losing about 20-25 practices because of the heat. Now, we won't have to miss practice anymore."
That also goes for other sports like soccer and baseball. Poteet's band even practices under the shade.
"It's not just us in football," McLain said. "The excitement is high."
On a day like Tuesday, leading young men and protecting their lives means a little bit more for McLain.
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