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Short and long practices defined by SCHSL for preseason football

By Jim Fair, Editor
Published on Thursday, July 26, 2012

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Alex Waters, a senior lineman with Greer, will provide leadership. Greer begins its preseason football practice Friday.

Alex Waters, a senior lineman with Greer, will provide leadership. Greer begins its preseason football practice Friday.

Jim Riggs is calling out high school football practice rules. “Football has turned from a tough man’s sport to now where it’s like an elective,” Riggs said.  “Now all practice times are mandated. The players are not as tough as they were.”

Riggs, a volunteer coach with J.L. Mann, was asked his opinion of this summer’s practice rules implemented by the South Carolina High School League (SCHSL) designating short and long practices. One short practice of 3 hours is mandated the day after a long practice, described as 5 hours of practice. Scrimmages count as 3 hours.

Friday is the official start of high school practice. High schools are mandated to follow this practice timeline:

• Days 1-2: 3 hours of practice in helmet and shorts

• Days 3-4: 3 hours of practice in helmet and shoulder pads permitted. Contact with shields, dummies, and sleds permitted

• Day 5: 3 hours of full contact practice in full gear permitte

• Day 6-14: Full contact practice in full gear permitted

Riggs, a former Clemson University football player under coach Danny Ford, and NFL player with the Cincinnati Bengals and Washington Redskins, was blunt when he said: “If we had a Danny Ford practice I’d go to jail.”

The SCHSL is implementing “heat-acclimatization” guidelines for secondary school athletic programs to minimize the risk of heat illness during preseason football practice. The S.C. Athletic Trainers Association endorsed the preseason practice plan.

“It’s all about protecting and acclimating the kids to the rigors of football practice,” said Bruce Hulion, SCHSL Commissioner of Athletic Officials and overseer of this new mandate.

“When we were kids we were out there all the time. We were acclimating ourselves all summer.  Now after tough practices we’re just the opposite. We go to an air conditioned school, cars and homes,” Hulion said.

Hulion said certified trainers in Greenville, Spartanburg and Anderson counties supported the SCHSL. “Their input and non-affiliation with schools have helped,” he said.

Hulion said the rule, for all classifications, was pushed for approval in 2009 and didn’t pass.. “There’s a difference in playing with a school having (100) players and another having (30). The (30) must play both ways.”

Greer fits into the classification of having a smaller roster than the Division I and II class 4A schools. Greer Head Coach Will Young designates one day for offense and another for defense to get a full complement of work done with his front line players. Greer players are more likely than not to play offense, defense and special teams on game nights.

Travis Perry, Greer athletics director, said, “There’s not a problem with the rule if everybody is abiding by it. There is life after football. Academics should be number one. I think the league has done a good job … it rings of sensitivity and focus on the athletes.”

“I think (the practice schedule) is good in some schools that are not rich in talent,” Riggs said. Humidity can be a thorn in the side. Last year we started practicing at six in the evening to escape the mid-day heat.”

Some coaches weren’t thrilled for the “continuous rest” phrase of the mandate. Practices must be separated by two hours of continuous rest. That means coaches are prohibited from having skull sessions, video and meetings during continuous rest.

“It makes it difficult for things like overnight camps. What do you do with the rest of the time after three hours (of practice)?” Berea head coach Robbie Cole said. “But I like where we are and as long as everybody else follows the rules, we’ll be OK.”

Cole produced a research paper and presentation on heat illness while in college. “The major concern is heat stroke. Plus you don’t know what (the players) are eating and drinking when they go home.”

Greer will hold its second Camp Swarm next week. Players will report to school early Wednesday, sleep two nights in the gymnasium and break camp after they return from the Gaffney jamboree that evening.

There are checks and balances in place to audit the preseason practices. “The first (14) days must be documented,” Hulion said. “An auditor may come to a school and ask for documentation.”

Hulion said he doesn’t anticipate the National Federation of State High School Associations to set national mandates for preseason practices. “It’s different in regions around the country. Colorado is a lot different climate than South Carolina. They say Texas and Georgia are stricter than we are. I’m not sure our final product is years to come,” Hulion said.

“Nobody wins the state championship in July,” Hulion said. “You could lose a heck of a lot more – you could lose a player and you would never recover from that.”

 

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