For nearly as long as young men have strapped up their helmets for their school and community, the grueling work in the hot sun during two-a-days has been part of high school football.
But that two-week tradition will be a thing of the past this year.
The University Interscholastic League has implemented preseason practice regulations that limit the amount of practice time and number of workouts for football teams.
Squads can’t hold more than one practice on consecutive days, and on days when multiple workouts are scheduled there must be a two-hour break between. Teams cannot have any session longer than three hours.
Also during the first four days of practice, if a second workout is slated it can only be walk-through without helmets.
Wise County coaches met the new regulations with mixed opinions, but understood the UIL’s motives.
“The rules are good for those guys that are taking it to an extreme,” said Chico coach Stephen Carter. “Our No. 1 responsibility is taking care of the kids. With three weeks of workouts [before school starts] we don’t lose any time.”
Paradise Athletic Director Danny Neighbors agreed.
“We’ve got plenty of practice time. With the second practice, you can use that time to help mentally recover and teach.”
Only two schools – Boyd and Alvord – held the traditional two-a-days last year with morning and evening workouts. The rest held two workouts in single sessions with an hour break between.
Boyd coach Brandon Hopkins, who is running workouts for the first time as a head coach, said it is a bit of an adjustment.
“For 30 years, it’s been the same around here,” Hopkins said. “We’ll still do some morning and evening workouts, just not every day. Those first four days, if you want to bring them back, you can’t have any pads, and it’s just a walk-through.
“I understand it. A lot of people are cutting back. Even the pros are not doing as much. Everything is about health.”
Alvord coach Curtis Enis favored two-a-days because it split the time up and helped keep athletes more focused during two-hour sessions.
“I wish they would let us have traditional two-a-days,” Enis said. “I loved to go two hours in the morning and two in the evening. If you go hard for two hours, you knew you had a six-hour break. I know the attention span after you get past that second hour begins to waver.”
Bridgeport and Decatur coaches said the new rules don’t change much for them. Bridgeport coach Danny Henson said his workouts were already scaled to new requirements.
“What they changed to we’ve been doing for a long time,” Henson said. “This is what we figured out to get max effort and teaching every day. We’ve been in this system for years.”
Decatur coach Kyle Story said it’s not a big change for his staff. The Eagles will have one long, three-hour workout with a long, on-the-field break in the middle.
“It really doesn’t affect us with what we have been doing,” Story said. “We were working out in those requirements.
“We’ve got three weeks before school starts to get ready and in shape. We get so much done in the spring, we could probably do without one of those weeks. The UIL may go to that eventually because of the heat.”
What coaches are left to figure out is what is considered practice under the new regulations. The guidelines from the UIL say on-the-field practice, specific skill instruction and mandatory conditioning all count toward practice time. Meetings, weight training, film study, water breaks, injury treatment and voluntary conditioning do not.
Coaches still feel there is some gray area.
“We’re all trying to figure out what counts as practice and doesn’t,” Enis said. “I wish they would give us a format of ‘this is what a workout is to look like.’ That way there is no gray area.”