Coaches greet football contact rule with collective ‘meh’

Posted Monday, Aug. 05, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Perhaps the University Interscholastic League was trying to do everybody a favor by just making sure football coaches were treating their players right.

When the high school governing body in June made official the rule football teams could not exceed 90 minutes of contact in a week, coaches greeted it collectively with a “meh.”

Those I have spoken with over the summer expressed indifference, because they were pretty much doing this with their teams anyway.

Safety is always at the forefront of this violent sport. It always should be. Concussion talk and testing, which became more of the mainstream talking points in the previous five years, pretty much drove the passage of this measure. But it’s not like coaches had to be brought out of the dark ages.

Really, you could view this rule as the governing body being a little behind the times as this rule went into effect on Monday. Our coverage teams all begin fall camp this coming Monday.

One coach told me, “I’ve been in the game for 20 years, and I’ve never seen where we’ve ever had contact for more than 90 minutes during the week at all.’’

UIL athletic director Dr. Mark Cousins has said that programs are going to police themselves when it comes to observing this rule. That’s pretty typical of most rules the UIL has passed.

Still, the one thing about sports is that its participants are always looking for a way to prepare for, or to play, the game smarter or more efficiently. You don’t have to look any further than when the spread offense emerged in the 1990s. That’s what happened with contact during the week. The problem is no one really took notice of it.

When you start a season with the grind of three weeks in August before the first game and then go through all of September and October, that’s going to take a physical toll.

Over time, coaches have used their spring football seasons as the foundation to develop their blocking and tackling techniques. They will have plenty of good on good (first-team offense against first-team defense) drills to make sure the starters have a good sense of the physical nature of the game.

August is more of a refinement. The season is now about making sure players are kept fresh. That means a lot to teams who do not have a lot of depth. Fossil Ridge and Grapevine are two programs that can ill-afford to lose a player to injury on Wednesday because of unnecessary tackle.

Normally, Monday is your film day to review the opponent and then do some light work. Tuesday and Wednesday are the heavy preparation days. That’s where the bulk of the contact is going to occur. And I can tell you that being at practices on those days, the contact isn’t extreme. Coaches just want to make sure their players are in the right spot. Thursday is the walk-through.

I guess if there is any good that comes from this is that it’s officially in the books and protects players from the renegade coaching staff that still believes there should be more hitting than is what is now being permitted.

Some will say that the rule shows how soft we’re becoming. That’s a little strong because all this did was codify guidelines that are already common sense.

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