When the Illinois High School Association introduced changes to preseason football practice in May of 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 vote by principals and athletic directors from across the state. Practices with helmets and shoulder pads also will now be limited to 14 hours a week and a maximum of 15 out of the 25 days of the summer.
“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.”
Although the IHSA changed the rules regarding summer practice, the move won’t change the way most coaches do things during the summer.
“It’s not going to effect us at all,” Downers Grove South head coach Mark Molinari said. “We never put kids in full pads. We’ve always done air drills [without tackling], but in the summer we’ve never gone to the ground.
“I think a lot of high schools did full pads, but I don’t know how many did full contact. Some teams might be upset about it, but for us, I think we’ll be all right.”
Downers Grove North head coach John Wander said the change won't impact the Trojans.
"I've been at Downers Grove North for 30 years with Pete Ventrelli and now as head coach, and we've never gone in full pads in the summer," Wander said. "We always go in helmets and shoulder pads for safety, but for us this is not going have a big impact."
While Molinari said the change won’t effect his team’s practice routine and he’s all for player safety, he also did play devil’s advocate on the other side of the issue.
“I think kids are safer with full pads on, so if you’re not doing full contact and going to the ground, then what is the issue?” he said. “But we’ll follow the rules and do things as we’re supposed to do them.”
Paul Parpet, Addison Trail’s longtime coach, an assistant at Downers Grove North the last four seasons and Lisle’s head coach starting this summer, had nothing but positive comments about the new rule.
“I think it’s a smart move,” Parpet said. “The summer starts June 10, and you could potentially have kids in full pads going full speed right away. Something had to be done. I think it’s a good idea.”
Parpet said he never went full tilt during his tenure at AT, and while he was at DGN, the Trojans never did any full-contact drills in the summer. The new rules won’t impact his first season with Lisle.
“It’s not going to effect things one bit,” he said. “I remember the days when in the summer you couldn’t have any pads, not even helmets, and we survived.”
Staff writer Scott Schmid contributed to this report