Safety stressed in IHSA practice changes

Safety stressed in IHSA practice changes
August 26, 2013, 3:15 pm
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In case you missed it, the IHSA Board of Directors back in May voted to institute changes to Policy 13, which in short established new, details rules and regulations for preseason practices. 

From the elimination of "double session" practices to controlling the overall length of practices to what can and can't be done on any specific day, the new rules certain add some bite to what was a very vague policy.

So how has the response been so far? From coaches to players alike, the new rule changes have had a mixed response, at best.

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On Sunday at the annual WJOL AM 1340 Preseason Coaches Show in Joliet, over 20 Joliet area head coaches gathered spoke about the new changes, the topic of the day.

Wilmington head coach Jeff Reents, who will enter his 20th season as the Wildcats head coach in 2013 has already felt the effect of the new rules.

"We usually had a scrimmage  on the Saturday before the season but we didn't do that this year. We only had a limited amount of time to work in pads and we felt that getting another full practice in was more important than the scrimmage."

John Jackson, head coach at Plainfield Central since 1997 is concerned about his team being in "hitting" shape.

"You just wonder with the limited time in pads this year just how in "football" shape the kids are when it comes to contact. Our kids and everyone else's kids condition year round.  Yet you can only get into real football shape once you get the pads on and start real contact."

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Other coaches also talked about the new focus on the entire concussion issue and if limited teaching time, especially at the lower levels is the best way to combat the entire safety issue.

"All we keep gearing about is safety and teaching kids to proper way to tackle and to continue to stress proper techniques," said one coach not wanting to go on the record.  "Yet they (IHSA) cut the amount of time we can spend on the field? I really worry about that especially on the lower levels. How can we teach kids properly? We spend a large majority of our week camp in the summer in pads on technique, but without being able to instill that it really doesn't make sense."

Others feel that the early season games could potentially be even more sloppy than in the past.

'If you think the opening games of the past were sloppy, just wait," said another area coach. "You might see some of the sloppiest games in a long, long time this year. It's not a question of if your team is ready. You just better do the best you can and hope your kids are ready now and I don't like that feeling at all."

Yet others felt no impact from the new rules changes whatsoever. Why? A large majority of the Joliet area schools either started the first day of classes on the same day as the first day of practice or within a day or two of the start of football practices.

The players response so far? I've spoke to several players on the subject, and the response has been the same.

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"Practices have been easier. It just doesn't feel as harder or as tougher than before."

One thing is certain. Look for the trend of more safety precautions and procedures to follow down the near term road. Whether they have the desired effect is yet to be seen. Yet the IHSA along with the coaches are trying to be proactive and taking what they feel are positive steps towards making the sport of football safer.

And who can argue against safety?