UIL considers less contact in practices

By Clay Corbett | Published Saturday, April 27, 2013
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Physical contact at high school football practices across the state may be scaled back if the University Interscholastic League’s Medical Advisory Committee gets their way.

The committee voted Sunday to recommend that full contact practice would be limited to 90 minutes per athlete per week during the season only.

The rule does not include pre-season or spring practice.

“It’s part of a continuing program by the medical advisory committee to do everything for the health and safety of the student participants,” Director of Athletics for the UIL Dr. Mark Cousins said. “There are already limits on the amount of practice during the school year. This is another step we’re looking at to make the game as safe as it can be.”

The committee defines full contact as a drill or live game simulation involving contact at game speed, in which players execute full tackles or blocks at a competitive pace with the intent of forcing another player to the ground.

The limited contact seems drastic, but every coach the Messenger talked to in Wise County is in favor of the measure. They have been adopting the minimal contact rule during the season for years and don’t even come close to the proposed 90 minutes limit.

“There is a perception out there that we go out there and ram into each other for an hour every day,” Bridgeport’s Director of Athletics Danny Henson said. “That hasn’t happened for 20 or 30 years.

“It would be good for coaches to probably publicize more about what we are doing. Things are much more controlled now.”

According to Cousins, the only thing the rule would affect is live speed where a player is pulled to the ground.

“Teams will still have the opportunity to hold drills and get teams ready,” Cousins said. “The only thing the recommendation affects is during the season and full-speed live drills where they tackle to the ground.”

Since preseason and spring workouts are not affected, most are in support of the rule and have no problem with it. Early August, and spring for the bigger schools, is when tackling technique is taught the most anyway.

“This is not a big change,” Boyd’s Director of Athletics Brandon Hopkins explained. “Early in the year we stress form tackling, so there is not a problem there. We taper off as the year goes on.”

Hopkins said the Yellowjackets average about 45 minutes to an hour of the defined contact the UIL is talking about in a week’s time.

Decatur’s Director of Athletics Kyle Story is on the same page. The Eagles average about 30 to 45 minutes a week.

According to Story, it is all about safety these days, and Decatur has a whole team that oversees the players’ wellbeing on a day-to-day basis.

“We basically have an oversight team and our trainer, Fernando Escobar, does a great job with that,” Story said. “Everything addresses safety of the kids throughout. I don’t think this rule will have much of an impact for most programs.”

The legislative council will review the recommendation in June, and it could be adopted at an October meeting. According to Cousins, it would not go into effect until the 2014 season if it follows the “normal process.”

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