Fall sports officially began practicing on Wednesday, but football teams are being forced to work a little bit differently starting this year.
New practice rules set by the IHSA have altered the way coaching staffs are allowed to operate summer practices that take place before school hours return.
Some schools, like York, IC Catholic and Montini, shifted to normal practice hours this week as the start of the football preseason coincided with school starting, so the limitations on early practices only had a minimal impact. Others will be limited for a little more than a week.
The two topics that most coaches brought up were that three-hour practices put an emphasis on efficiency, and that prohibiting teams from tackling until closer to the first game could cause problems.
“You really have to plan your practices to hit all three areas," Montini coach Chris Andriano said. "In the preseason that’s hard to do. We’re going to have to be very organized and very smart.”
Andriano used to have Montini run separate practices for offense, defense and special teams. He believes the limited practice time will impact special teams the most.
York coach Steve Nye mentioned that most of the base offensive and defensive concepts were worked on during summer practices. It's the blitz packages and other more intricate things that will get worked on now. The limited practice time and tackling time makes that tougher.
It also makes it tougher on the younger levels, where players are still learning the basics of tackling.
“I think it’s really difficult for freshmen to be able to get a team prepared to play in two and a half weeks when they really can’t hit until 10 days before the first game," Nye said. “They haven’t really done any tackling. You want to teach them the proper way and the proper technique, but it proves to be pretty difficult. In order to learn how to tackle you have to tackle.”
The general consensus among coaches was that no one argued with the concept behind the new rules. Safety is the priority. However, the complaints came in smaller nit-picks over how the changes were implemented.
"You're going to find out what happens because of the limited contact and practice time," Glenbard East coach John Walters said. "It's going to be a trial and error thing, but player safety is of the utmost concern. If this is going to eliminate potential dehydration and heat exhaustion, I'm all for it. It's one of those things where you're going to have to take a wait and see stance."