Area high school football coaches have divergent views on the new 10-day practice period being allowed by the N.C. High School Athletic Association this spring. The NCHSAA eliminated off-season development workouts, which could use 21 players at a time, in favor of a 10-day period with unlimited numbers in the last days of school.
Several schools discovered this spring that they could not fit the 10 practices into the time period allotted, but the NCHSAA adjusted the period on Wednesday. Most schools are expected to be able to have all or most of the workouts.
Coaches are unsure of what to expect as they enter the practices during the next few days. The switch from the skill development sessions throughout the spring to the 10-day period was sudden. The board approved the change in December and it went into effect immediately.
“Skill development was pulled right from under us,” said Sanderson coach Ben Kolstad. “We had our entire off-season planned and organized and then all of a sudden everything changed. No warning or explanation.
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“The loss of skill development really hurts Sanderson and other programs that are trying to turn the corner. We used to be able to develop kids and more importantly develop our coaches. Now, the 10-day spring and the summer are even more important than they used to be.”
Veteran Chapel Hill High coach Isaac Marsh said he doesn’t know how the exchange of skill development for 10-days of practice will affect his program.
“I need to go through it one time before I know,” he said.
Antonio King, Durham Hillside
“If I had my pick I would stick with the 21-players rule (for skill development). But if we’re going to have the 10 days, I wish we would say that we could pick our 10 days between the Monday after the state championship meet and the Friday before Memorial Day and finish with some kind of event that college coaches could attend.”
John Poulnott, East Wake
“We hope to get all of our defense installed, get ready for 7 on 7s and to make substantial gains heading into the summer. The big thing is getting prepped for summer and not looking like we haven’t been doing anything since December.
“I really am beside myself in how much I believe we missed out on skill development. I’m a firm believer in little-by-little the kids will gain more skill level than if you rush into it over this 10-day shot. My opinion may change after these 10 days, but right now I’m holding the old guard down and saying I liked it more like it was. There’s a lot of gray area I’m concerned about, but it may work out.
“I think the 10-day period is great for football. I just don’t want it to be the only thing we do in terms of development of our players, though. We’re being asked to do everything in a little space of times, but I think in the end this 10-days is going to be great for us helping us answer a lot of questions.
“I think the players are going to love it. They want to put pads on. In reality, with the direction practice for football is heading with issues of injuries and concussions, this is probably the nature of the world we’re in right now where you work to protect your players more. It’s just a change of philosophy. Now, it’s slowly but surely coming to where you have one contact practice and even then you’re going to regulate your players’ contact to make sure they’re physically ready for Friday.”
Sean Crocker, Panther Creek
“The 10 days of spring workouts has it pros and cons. It is good to be able to have all of our guys out, but we missed valuable time with individual groups this spring, especially our QBs. During this period, we will evaluate new players, get back to basics with the fundamentals at every position and begin to install our offense and defensive units with our basic concepts. I think the spring practice is good for football because it helps to bridge the spring and summer periods. It gives the players an event to look forward to during the spring season.”
Jimmy Williams, West Johnston
“I do not miss skill development at all. That is what we will be doing in that 10 day period with every kid in the program. Even though some will disagree, this is the first step toward a better way of practicing in the spring.
“In the future, I hope you will be able to do it the old way but with unlimited numbers or I am hopeful that we can get a 12-day period for any time in May. The first five days would be your basic conditioning period with hitting allowed on the 6th day. The following 5 days would be full go with a scrimmage game on the last day. This will allow recruiters from all over the southeast to see our kids in a practice and game situation. I believe this will allow more exposure and opportunity for all of our players.”
Clarence Inscore, Millbrook
“I miss 21-man workouts!! We will try to get some individual skill development and install our base offense and defense.”
Randy Pinkowski, Clayton
“I, for one, like the new system. The period is well defined and makes it easy to schedule months ahead of time so both my players families and coaches can plan ahead. Almost all other sports are finished so we will have access to all of our kids and coaches. I do not miss the old system. It was too many days, too many conflicts, too much bad weather, and burn out by the kids and the coaches.
“We will issue equipment, fit helmets, assign lockers, teach stretching warm up and drill procedures. We will begin looking at footwork and technique at all positions. By the end of the ten days, we hope to have our base defense in focusing a good deal on pass drops and coverage. Offensively, we will work from our most popular offensive formations to teach a base run play from each series and focus again a good deal off time on our passing game. Receivers will learn proper route running and our favorite route combinations. Offensive line will spend a good deal of time working on individual pass protection techniques and different pass protection schemes. We spend a good deal off this time on passing and passing def because the next phase will be summer passing leagues and camp.
“I hope we continue doing exactly what we are doing now. I think it is fair to all sports, coaches and most importantly the student athletes. I also would hope we could go through the next three years without any change. Lets have a period of calm.”
Mike Thibodeux, Southeast Raleigh
“We are looking to review our core implementation from 2014, which was our first year in the program, and to prep ourselves for summer 7 on 7’s. We 100 per cent miss the off-season development. We got a lot accomplished in 2014 when we arrived in March, and were able to develop a lot of younger kids. I hope the state will go back to allowing the 21-and-under players skill-development days from February through May, and still allow a 10 day spring period with unlimited numbers.”
Ben Kolstad, Sanderson
“I miss the development sessions that we had in the past. This new rule is devastating for the development of our players and our team. There are many kids that are going out and paying people to train them in football skills that we normally do for free. Not only are they spending money they should not, but they are many times being trained by someone that doesn’t always have the player/team’s best interest in mind. Working with smaller groups allows more individual attention which helps develop the player’s skills, but also develops the player/coach relationship.”
Jeb Hall, Fuquay-Varina
“I would rather have unlimited days of ‘skill development’ like the years before. I don’t believe we can develop players during a 10-day practice window. I’m sure some of the rules will be revised over the next couple of years.”