New practice guidelines mean drastic change for high school football
The days of two- and three-a-day football practices are probably a thing of the past for high school teams around the state.
When football teams begin practice on July 27, coaches and trainers must follow guidelines established by the South Carolina High School League. The preseason practice plan, endorsed by the South Carolina Athletic Trainers Association, will be used to acclimate players to summer heat and humidity. The plan is similar to what college football teams have been using for several years. High school teams in the South Carolina Independent Schools Association also have been using similar practice guidelines.
The plan will limit practice times, provide periods of rest, and alternate between long practice days and short practice days. Not only that, but practices during the first two weeks must be documented to show compliance.
“It’s a pretty drastic change,” said Wando athletic director Bob Hayes, who was head coach of the Warriors from 2000-09. “In the past, the only restriction was the number of days you could practice before your first game. Now, you even have to document what you do. It affects every fall sport, just not football. I don’t think it’s a bad thing.”
The plan was a couple of years in the making.
In 2009, The Inter-association Task Force for Preseason Secondary School Athletics recommended preseason heat guidelines to protect student-athletes.
The task force included various organizations, including the Gatorade Sports Science Institute and the U.S. Army Research Institute.
The practice timeline is divided into four main parts:
Days 1-2 allow three hours of practice in helmets and shorts each day.
Days 3-4 permit three hours of practice in helmets and shoulder pads. Contact with dummies and sleds are allowed.
Day 5 allows three hours of full contact in full gear.
Days 6-14 provide the most drastic changes. Teams must alternate between long and short days.
Long days allow five hours of practice, and coaches can divide the times as they see fit. But practice must be separated by two hours of continuous rest. Short days include three hours of practice. Coaches can divide the time, but again, there must be a two-hour rest period.
There are numerous addendums.
For example, a scrimmage can be held on a long or short day but counts as three hours. Walkthroughs are permitted and do not count as practice time. But in this case, a walkthrough must be held in an indoor, climate controlled facility.
“I don’t think there’s anyone who understands it 100 percent,” said Goose Creek coach Chuck Reedy. “I think it is going to take some time to get used to it.”
The guidelines are intended to protect players from grueling weather. But some schools already have schedules in place to maximize practice times and make sure players are in good health.
That’s the case at many big schools, which have a staff of trainers.
Ernie Drews, head trainer at Goose Creek, said the health of the players should always be the priority in practice.
“I am for protecting the kids 150 percent, and we give them all the water anytime they want it,” he said.
“We get our kids in here early, practice, give them rest and have them finish by 12:15 in the afternoon. That gives them the rest of the day to re-hydrate and rest.”
Follow Philip M. Bowman on Twitter: @pandcphil.