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 also will now be limited to 14 hours a week and a maximum of 15 out of the 25 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 actually was 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 the summer 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.”
Glenbard North coach Ryan Wilkens has no issues with the new rules.
“They are making the sport safer,” he said, “and less contact might reduce the number of concussions.”
Glenbard West under head coach Chad Hetlet always has practiced with just shoulder pads and helmets during the summer, so adapting to the new rules isn’t necessary. Hetlet understands what the IHSA is trying to do but does have one concern for down the road.
“I understand,” he said. “Some people are putting full gear on and tackling in June. There are so many other things you can do in June and July. You can do all the tackling you want during the season.
“So I don’t think this is a bad change. I’m just afraid of them continuing to take things away because you want to be able to suit up and put equipment on and teach the proper techniques. This doesn’t do that. This is not a contact sport, it’s a collision sport. There will be collisions on every play, and you want your kids to be in the safest spot when those collisions happen.”