New guidelines to change high school football’s preseason
The Iowa High School Athletic Association handed down a list of new guidelines for preseason football practices on Wednesday.
The main changes, which will take effect this fall, were the elimination of two-a-day practices, limiting practices to three hours in length, further limiting the amount of contact during the first week of practice and the addition of a preseason scrimmage with another school. The new measures incorporate many of the recommendations from research and studies by the medical community relative to the length of practice, the amount of contact in preseason drills, and the acclimation of young athletes, the press release stated.
“I understand why they’re doing it,” Highland head football coach Tony Johnson said. “There were some heat problems in other states. And in the middle of August, it’s hot.”
Still, Johnson said the loss of two-a-day practices will be a big change for his football program.
“We’ve always done the two-a-days,” he said. “After two hours you always kind of lose focus with the boys, so I brought them in in the morning and then brought them back in in the afternoon.”
WACO head football coach Chad Edeker did the same thing with his players.
“We went from 8 to 10 in the morning and then we went from 6 to 8 at night,” he said. “I liked it because it was a little shorter. [Now] I’m pretty sure we’ll probably go 5 to 8 at night.”
However, Washington head football coach Randy Schrader said that the new guidelines will not change the way he runs his program. The Demons never have done two-a-days under Schrader, and practices are often short because Schrader runs uptempo practices.
“It doesn’t really affect us,” he said. “We normally just did the one [practice] a day anyway.”
The limitations on contact won’t change much of the way the Demons practice, either. Under the new guidelines, during the first two days of practice helmets and mouth guards may be worn, but no activities that require protective equipment shall be done. During days three through five, helmets, mouth guards and shoulder pads may be worn and contact with blocking sleds, tackling dummies and technique drills for blocking and tackling may begin, but no full contact is allowed. Above-the-waist contact between players focusing on proper tackling and blocking techniques may occur. On the sixth day of practice, all protective equipment may be worn and full contact drills may begin.
“For us it’s not that much different because we do a lot of things in half shell,” said Schrader, referring to the team’s habit of practicing in only helmets and shoulder pads on certain days.
Edeker predicted that the new rules on contact would have coaches taking their teams to more team camps in the summer where full contact is allowed.
“I think it’s going to force more teams to have to go to team camps that all of the colleges seem to have, which are padded team camps,” he said. “They’re basically taking two contact days from you, so I think there are coaches who now are going to go to padded team camps. That kind of circumvents the rule, because you’re going to the team camps and putting on the pads from day one.”
But teams won’t lose practice time, because they will now be allowed to practice on Saturdays in the preseason. The first day of full contact drills will come on the sixth day, a Saturday.
“They gave us Saturdays back,” Edeker said. “We’ve never practiced on a Saturday before, but that is an option.”
Also, schools are now allowed to have a scrimmage with another school after 10 days of practice and prior to the first legal playing date.
“They’re allowing us to have a scrimmage,” Johnson said. “They did take away, but they gave back, too. I think we’re going to have time to get everything in that we want to.”
Edeker, who had just 41 players on his roster last season, likes the idea of being able to scrimmage another school prior to the first game of the season.
“As a small school, our Gatorade game isn’t that competitive,” he said. “You have to work carefully to have two teams that are compatible and can play against each other. I think [the scrimmage is] a valuable tool because you can get your starters reps against a varsity opponent instead of against our JV kids. It will really help us for Week 1.”
“I think it will be nice to do that,” Johnson said of the scrimmage. “The kids get to the point where they’re sick of hitting their teammates.”
But while Edeker and Johnson, who coach teams playing in Iowa’s smallest 11-player class, plan to take advantage of the scrimmage, Schrader, whose Demons have a much deeper roster and play in Class 3A, will stick to simply playing the intrasquad sports drink scrimmage.
“We really want to keep that sports drink scrimmage where it is,” he said. “In reality, our non-district games give us a chance to work out the kinks before we get into the meat of our district schedule.”
Overall, Schrader downplayed the new guidelines.
“It’s really six of one and half a dozen of the other,” he said.
Edeker, on the other hand, will wait to pass judgment.
“I don’t know how it’s going to go,” Edeker said. “Until we do it a year, I’m not sure how it’s going to affect us.”