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 shoulders pad will also now be limited to 14 hours A week and a maximum of 15 out of the 25 days of the summer practice schedule.
“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. For Hinsdale South and head coach Mike Barry, it means one drill is off the table.
“It’s pretty much what we’ve been doing minus a little bit of tackling,” Barry said. “We have a segment we do a couple times a week where we get in a competitive goal line situation. That’s going to have to be tweaked.”
Aside from the goal line drill, the Hornets by and large avoided physical contact in years past.
“The last thing any coach wants is to get guys banged up over the summer,” Barry said. “This just defines the way kids can contact each other. Wrapping up [but not tackling] is pretty much what we’ve been doing.”
Enforcing the rules falls on coaches and athletic directors. Hinsdale Central AD Dan Jones is finalizing his search for a new head coach and said no matter who the coach is, there will be plan in place to follow the rules.
“We’ll all have to work out a procedure so ADs are able to keep track and make sure everybody is working within the guidelines,” Jones said.
The new rules won’t bring any changes for Downers Grove South.
“It’s not going to effect us at all,” 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.”
While Molinari said the change won’t effect his team’s practice routine and he’s all for player safety, he did also 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.”
Staff writer Scott Schmid contributed to this report.