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 be limited to 14 hours per 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 was part of a committee that submitted a counter proposal to the IHSA.
“Our proposal was let’s restrict the number of days you can be in pads,” said Cordell, who added the changes won’t really affect the Raiders since his teams only went in full pads for three days in recent years. “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.”
Nazareth coach Tim Racki also has had his teams use full pads during summer but only in two live scrimmages they set up. He said the shift simply makes him and his coaching staff be a little more creative with different drills to replace those two scrimmages.
“I always thought it was safer to have all their pads on because maybe twice we have live contact during the summer,” Racki said. “It’s not going to change what we do that much. The fact that there’s 10 days less in shells, we’re just going to have to get creative as far as what we can do. It’s not like my plans came crashing down or completely alter the way we do things. I’m on board with it. I get what they’re trying to do.”
Not having to gear up for summer practice is probably something the players can enjoy.
“The kids not being in full pads, I would think overall they would be happy that they can be in shorts in the summer,” Racki said. “You don’t want to lose anybody [to injury] in the summer, you have to be smart.”
Staff writer Scott Schmid contributed to this report