For decades, football has had the greatest participation among high school sports.  In recent years it’s become the greatest spectator sport as well. Today, MHSAA Football Playoff revenue exceeds that of Boys and Girls Basketball Tournaments combined. And if I ever want to generate comments to a blog, all I have to do is mention football.

I can write either the most inspired or inane words about most topics, and not generate a comment.  But mention “football,” and opinions come fast and usually furious.

So it was with my eyes wide open that I challenged some “sacred cows” in my posting of March 20, questioned some of the standard operating procedures of high school football practice, and predicted that we will soon be making some changes in the sport I played through four years of college and coached in high school and to which I owe more of my character development than any other sport.  I knew some readers would call me out of date and out of touch, knowing nothing of my past or my passion.

I knew some readers would challenge any comparison made with college and professional players, asserting that older players need fewer practices with less contact because they already have the skills and techniques of blocking and tackling.  However, they miss the fact that it is the younger and still growing body that needs more care and caution, not less.  Less hitting, not more.  More heat and humidity acclimatization, not less.

I knew some readers would complain about diminishing time to develop young players, overlooking the proliferation of camps, clinics, combines, 7-on-7 leagues and the like which have improved skills and conditioning for many athletes prior to the official start of practice.  If that were not true or if we would dial down the out-of-season demands, then I might not join the amassing advocates for reduced in-season practice demands.  But sadly, it is true; coaches already have these kids year-round.
On the same day that I posted predictions of changes for football practice policies in Michigan, including more days before pads and fewer days with double sessions, the Georgia High School Association adopted policies that did just that, requiring five days of practice before the first with full pads and prohibiting two-a-day practices on consecutive days.

Such changes reflect the growing body of evidence regarding “best practices” for high school football, including the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Federation of State High School Associations.  This train has left the station; and Michigan should be an early stop, an early adopter of practice policies modifications.  We put our players, coaches and selves in peril if we ignore the evidence.

I’m embarrassed to say that for too long I avoided this topic because I knew it would bring ridicule.  Then recently, a young but experienced head football coach told me that these are the kinds of changes that football needs.  Needs to keep the game attractive to kids; and needs to keep the game safe for kids.


Hugh R. Matson
# Hugh R. Matson
Wednesday, April 11, 2012 7:24 AM
"Out of date" and "out of touch"? You are right on!!
James Meek
# James Meek
Wednesday, April 11, 2012 8:21 AM
As a former Athletic Trainer and now Athletic Administrator, I would welcome these changes. For years I have tried to talk sense into coaches about the harm that the lack of heat acclimation can do to an athelte's body. Too many times coaches get lost (or perhaps a better term- lose focus) that this is a game and should be safe and fun for the student athletes involved. The "old school" method is no longer the safest and as you said the "best practice" to use.
Dave Myron
# Dave Myron
Thursday, April 12, 2012 8:17 AM
I agree on both counts. The real pressures come from the diminished financial support for athletics. Fewer coaches, no money for professional development, only required equipment is paid for...the list grows daily. I quit coaching after 24 years because I refuse to be a part of the fundraising scams, I will no longer be a part of telling kids they can't play because they didn't pay the "participation fee". The whole idea that a kid isn't allowed to play because he/she is poor is morally and ethically disgusting to me.

These all lead to cutting corners to get a team ready in 3 weeks to play a game.

I will say it again. If things don't change; football in the schools will be dead in 10 years. It will turn into AAU (ugh). The only sport that must have a school association is football. All other sports can and will continue to grow outside of the MHSAA framework.

I think this is a sad commentary on the legislature's attack on school funding. All I can say is "When you argue with reality you lose, but only 100% of the time." (Byron Katie)

I want the MHSAA to thrive, I want my students and my children to have the same experiences I had. But the people of Michigan, through our legislature have spoken...NO MONEY for anything that can't be used to punish children, teachers and schools. We worship greed and we reap what we sow.
Lee Wood
# Lee Wood
Tuesday, May 22, 2012 1:42 PM
I agree with what is being undertaken by the state of Georgia and preseason practice. I believe, by starting practice a few days earlier(This year is August 6) would allow coaches and players to follow the pattern that is happening at all levels of football. That pattern is that a 2 a day practice must always be followed by a single practice(not more than 2 hours and 15 minutes). Also, I would suggest that if both practices of a 2 a day are both fully padded the single practice the next day must be unpadded. Using this years date as an example let practice start on August 1 with all practices Wed. thru Sat. be unpadded and always follow the idea of a 2 a day followed by a single practice.

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