Prep football: Coaches adjusting to new practice rules

• Area high schools adjust to new IHSA rules, which include one week of practice until pads and limit of three hours of practice per day

By Matt Nestor
Prep Sports Reporter

The start of the school year is right around the corner. But unlike years past, the football practice season is not starting too far ahead of school.

The IHSA introduced a new set of rules this year governing practice time and what is allowed, which has really made some big changes in how some schools run their programs.

Among the changes is there is now a longer period from when practice starts to when you can be in pads, from two days to one week. There is also a limit of three hours of practice a day as well as a mandatory two-hour rest period between practices.

This is on the heels of a “dead” period of time, in which the coaches could not conduct any type of practice with their players.

This comes from a number of highly-respected medical groups that have done the research,” IHSA Assistant Executive Director Matt Troha said. “People are looking at the future of football and realize that there need to be some progressive changes to protect the future of the sport. We have to look to the future to make smart decisions to keep the kids safe.”

For some coaches, it is a welcome adjustment. Most coaches agreed that these changes will help keep kids safe, which is ultimately the top priority.

For a coach like Chad Carpenter from Rockford Christian, he is glad to see these security measures put into place, ones that are similar to what he saw coaching in Tennessee and Virginia.

I am very thankful that the IHSA has put in some heat acclimation periods,” Carpenter said. “It puts our young men in a situation where they can be safer.”

While all agreed that the changes will help safety, some coaches saw potential drawbacks. Some worry about what their competitors may be doing, whether they are breaking the rules to gain an advantage, or whether they will send out spies to catch them in the same act.

All of the rules are self-monitored, tracked by school principals, with undisclosed but stiff penalties if the rules are broken.

In addition, some coaches wonder if there could be some unintended consequences, as parity is starting to creep in around the state.

I think if you are an established program, you can find a way to work around the time limitations,” Stillman Valley coach Mike Lalor said. “It could potentially hurt a newer, upstart program that needs that extra time on the field with the kids.”

But even with any potential side effects, Lalor still believes the rule changes are good and necessary. He even hopes the state will take it a step further, lowering the number of practice days available in the summer from the current number of 25 days.

I think overall, it’s probably a good thing,” he said. “I’m sure I am in the minority, but I hope they do more in the summer time. I think some people are probably doing a little too much in the summer.”

From the Aug. 14-20, 2013, issue

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