Juan Villa / The Collegian
Unlike many people in the Valley, some Fresno State student-athletes and coaches do not have the luxury of stepping inside air-conditioned rooms when they go to work.
Air quality is notoriously bad in the Valley, and brutal for the athletes, something the coaches are aware of during practices, meets and games.
Fresno State softball coach Margie Wright backs off cardio-heavy workouts, especially during the fall.
â€œWe absolutely break more often because we donâ€™t want someone going down,â€ Wright said. â€œWe have several kids who have asthma and it makes it tough on them.â€
However, during the season Wright said that even though she pays attention to air quality, her athletes have to train, even when the air is poor.
File photo by Joseph Edgecomb / The Collegian
During the season Wright does not see the air quality affecting the players, unlike the fall.
â€œIn the fall I see [the air] affecting them,â€ Wright said. â€œThey get lethargic and itâ€™s hard for them to breathe and do what they do.â€
It helps the team that some games are played in the evening when the air quality is less harmful.
Wright said that when her team travels to Southern California, the humidity also affects the players.
â€œI know when we go down to Los Angeles, sometimes the air quality is pretty bad down there,â€ Wright said. â€œIt does affect a lot of people on the team, mostly because theyâ€™re not used to it.â€
Track coach Bob Fraley definitely pays attention to air quality, especially since all of his athletes train outside.
â€œWe donâ€™t make an issue out of it because most of these athletes train all year round,â€ Fraley said. â€œItâ€™s a matter of adapting to the conditions.â€
Fraley notices a difference when he recruits an athlete from a healthier climate.
Fraley said that people from the Valley and other parts of California are better at dealing with the poor quality because they are â€œimmune or adapted to it.â€
Fraley doesnâ€™t make changes to his practice schedules for the runners.
â€œUnless it was so bad and it was an emergency and they said donâ€™t do anything, then Iâ€™d have to do something,â€ Fraley said. â€œI really havenâ€™t changed a practice for air quality, unless it was a really hot day.â€
Fraley compared his athletes to Kenyans, who he said have no problems with their feet because they run around barefoot when they are kids.
Fraley doesnâ€™t want to plant a seed in his runnersâ€™ minds that their performance might be linked to the air quality.
â€œIf performance is bad, theyâ€™ll blame it on something that really didnâ€™t have anything to do with their performance,â€ Fraley said. â€œNo excuses.â€
Fraley tries to set practice later in the day when he thinks the air quality improves.
â€œWhat weâ€™ve found in the Central Valley is that somewhere around 1 or 2 p.m. youâ€™re going to get a breeze coming in, and youâ€™re going to get a layer thatâ€™s a lot less polluted.â€
Fraley worries mostly how the heat affects his athletes.
â€œIf the heat is really bad, then the air is really bad, so you have to take a look at it,â€ Fraley said.
Sophomore distance runner Frank Sanders uses the bad air to his advantage, as something that runners from other schools canâ€™t use.
â€œItâ€™s definitely harder to run [in the Valley],â€ Sanders said. â€œIn a sense itâ€™s good to train here because thereâ€™s no other place that has it. When we get to other schools, itâ€™s clean air. We feel stronger.â€
Still, Sanders doesnâ€™t enjoy the bad air all the time.
â€œWe might tell each other that itâ€™s a bad day, or that hey, â€˜the air sucks today,â€™ Sanders said. â€œBut we have to go do 12 miles, letâ€™s go.â€
Sanders never changes his practice schedule to adjust to poor air quality.
He said that what he has written down on his schedule is what he does, regardless of the conditions.
â€œI have to come out here anyway and run in it,â€ Sanders said. â€œItâ€™s harder to run sometimes.â€
Sanders does notice differences in his times when the Valley air is bad.
â€œWhen we get back from a long, hard run our times might be slower,â€ Sanders said. â€œWe sometimes might feel a little dizzy.â€