WHEATON – When the Illinois High School Association introduced changes to preseason football practice in May 2013 in hopes of making the sport safer, some local coaches predicted that was just the beginning.
Turns out they were right.
Last week, the IHSA announced that a by-law which eliminates full pads and full contact (full contact is defined as football drills or game situations where live action occurs) during the 25 days of summer camp passed by a 170-87 margin in a vote by principals and athletic directors from across the state. Practices with helmets and shoulder pads also will now be limited to 14 hours per week and a maximum of 15 out of the 25 summer contact days.
“We believe this revision minimizes risk to football student-athletes, while allowing for the teaching of appropriate fundamentals,” IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman said on the IHSA website. “This is another important step in making high school football as safe as possible, while putting all of our schools on an even playing field regarding football activities during the summer.”
Glenbard South coach Jeremy Cordell was actually a part of a committee that submitted a counter proposal to the IHSA.
“We agree with them, let’s make it as safe as possible,” said Cordell, who added the changes won’t really affect the Raiders since his teams only went in full pads for parts of three days in recent years. “Our proposal was let’s restrict the number of days you can be in pads. I do think it’s a good move to try to keep things safe. But I think they need to be a little more conscious of the fact, maybe put a five day cap on it or something like that.
“The analogy we used was driving a car. If you don’t drive a car until two weeks before the first test, that’s not a lot of practice. Now the first time in full pads is not until August.”
Wheaton North won’t have to change what they have done in the past; the Falcons don’t even hand out uniform pants during the summer.
“We’ve always worn helmets and shoulder pads for the summer,” Falcons head coach Joe Wardynski said. “We feel we can get everything done without [full pads and contact]. And not having [padded]pants on keeps them up off the ground.”
Having said that, Wardynski does see both sides of the debate.
“I understand what they are doing,” he said. “Some coaches may hit all 25 days. But it’s a fine line. Some people say you can’t learn how to tackle the right way unless you tackle, and something can be said to that. You can only go against a pad so much.”
Wardynski came to Wheaton North after serving as an assistant coach at Wheaton Warrenville South, which has the same policy regarding summer practices.
“We have never gone full pads during the summer,” Tigers coach Ron Muhitch said. “We will always be in helmets every day for safety. We do use shoulder pads on Tuesdays and Thursdays when we install the run game and that is only for protection purposes. There is no live full tackle anytime in summer camps for us.”