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 during the summer contact period.
“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.”
Recently hired Lemont football coach Bret Kooi wasn’t caught off guard by the news.
“To be honest with you,” Kooi said, “I realistically thought this was going to come down so it wasn’t a big surprise.”
Kooi went on to say that the changes won’t affect his summer camp plans even as he looks to get Lemont ready to go in his first season at the helm.
“In my past, we’ve always done that anyway; we’ve always been just helmets and shoulder pads,” said Kooi, who coached for 17 years at Lockport before being hired as Lemont’s coach in February. “So for me personally, it’s not going to be a change.”
There are multiple reasons for shying away from full pads and contact in the summer according to Kooi.
“It’s a combination of a lot of things,” he said. “In the summertime, obviously it tends to be hotter and we want to keep the kids fresh and healthy.
“The other thing, when you don’t have the bottoms on, you are staying away from any contact on the bottom. When you have full gear on, you get that mentality that since it’s full dress, it’s full go. We are not looking for that. Our goals for the team in the summer are to learn as much as we can and to stay healthy.”