Tim Stevens, The News & Observer high school sports editor, and the sports editors of the community papers discuss topics related to high school athletics.
The N.C. High School Athletic Association is allowing high school football coaches to have 10 days of workouts this spring but has prohibited other football workouts during the school year after the completion of the season. Is this a good thing?
Stevens: The coaches have been asking for this for quite a while, but I’m not sure if anybody understands all of the ramifications yet. Some coaches believe this is the first step – the camel’s nose under the tent – toward a real spring practice. I hope not.
J. Mike Blake, Southwest Wake News: It’s good that football players are not being pressured into attending skill-development sessions that conflict with other sports. Not that specialization is ever an issue for football, but now they can feel free to play basketball, run track or do another sport and become a better all-around athlete. It’s too early to have a verdict, but the idea is based on good merits. A 1A coach told me he was excited because he could use the 10-day period as a means to get potential players already within the school to give football a shot. It’s less daunting than showing in the summer and being expected to know where to be.
W.E. Warnock, Durham News: The jury is out on the 10-days’ merits. When a governing body tries to limit an activity, the result often is that only the “good guys” suffer. The activity gets driven underground and the more ruthless programs just find a way to continue doing what they want. The current system puts the workouts out in the open and on campus. But the authorized activity must have limits.
D. Clay Best, Smithfield Herald: I like moving toward a more normally structured spring period for football work. The 21-man workout rule just always seemed fraught with potential opportunities to bend those numbers/rules. I don’t want this to turn into a spring full of football with expansion of practices, spring games (believe me, somebody’s already got that in their head), etc.
Should the NCHSAA move to a true spring football practice?
Stevens: The national trend is in the opposite direction. Several states are legislating less hitting in practice and less practice. The NCHSAA traditionally has believed athletics should be shaped around the 90 percent of the students who will not play collegiate athletics instead of the fraction that does. The 90 percenters don’t need spring football practice.
Aaron Moody, Eastern Wake News: From a safety standpoint, I don’t think so. More times than not, I hear coaches talking about needing time to gradually impress new schemes and positions on players. Doing that shouldn’t carry with it the risk of injury, especially months away from football season.
Blake: If the only significant distinction between “spring practice” and “spring development” is hitting, the answer is no. The real problem coaches were having before is that they had limits on the number of players who could participate in their sessions. Ten days without limits alleviates the problem of only being able to work with a fraction of your potential linemen or only having some linebackers know where to line up. I don’t see as much to be gained by letting the players hit in May or June.
Warnock: As much as I enjoy football, and attend as many spring games as I can, a true spring practice for high schools is not a good idea. It would be contradictory to maintain the rule against teams’ postseason participation in out-of-state contests – a rule designed to allow students time to play more than one sport – and then to create a rule extending football even more into the spring.
Best: I don’t want anything spring football to expand any more than 15 days, if that. There’s no need for it at this level.
Should teams be allowed to have full contact in the spring and summer?
Stevens: Absolutely not. Hitting in the summer and spring serves no purpose. Some coaches would like to have a spring event for recruiting purposes, but I wonder how many college coaches would come. The common answer from college recruiters is, ‘I’d love to have you in our summer camp.’”
Blake: No. It seems like that would go against the grain of common sense.
Best: Everything we’re learning about football head injuries of late tells us that less contact is always the ideal. The same idea makes this a definite no for me. Instead of worrying about hitting, maybe the majority of the focus of spring football should be how to hit. Yes, we’ve made gains in this area in recent years with better instruction for coaches on how to teach proper, legal hitting and the enforcement of excessive force penalties.
The No. 1 goal of high school athletics is to provide as safe of a competitive atmosphere as possible in every sport, so those lifelong lessons that draw us all to prep sports win out over any other potential concerns.
Moody: No way. The aim here is to get as many kids accustomed to their positions as possible. Hitting might remind players what to expect on Friday nights, but it also might keep them from getting there.
Warnock: If we had more time between the end of the spring semester and the start of preseason workouts, I would favor full-contact drills earlier in the summer than allowed now. (If I were back in high school wearing that helmet and pads in 100-degree heat, I’d be adamantly against it.) But we only have a gap of a few weeks so no contact until practice starts.