Starting next year, Texas high school football players will likely be facing fewer two-a-day practices, thanks to rule changes approved Monday by the Texas University Interscholastic League’s legislative council.
With Texas having just gone through its hottest summer on record, the UIL made three key changes in terms of two-a-day practices, largely to protect players from potential heat-related injuries:
• Two-a-days are now banned in the first four days of practice, to allow student-athletes to acclimate themselves to the heat. In those first four days, if more than one practice is held on a given day, the second practice can only be a “walk-through” practice that excludes contact or conditioning.
• When holding two-a-day practices, coaches must give their players at least two hours of mandatory rest in between. The old rules only required one hour of rest.
• Teams can no longer hold two-a-days on consecutive days.
These changes aren’t yet finalized, as state Education Commissioner Robert Scott must approve them. (The Associated Press reports that he’s expected to do so.)
Mike Carroll, a member of the National Athletic Trainers Association, explained to the AP that most heat-related injuries in student-athletes occur in the first week of practice, during the second workout of the day. Hence the need for these changes.
Not surprisingly, some Texas high school football coaches aren’t too fond of the potential to lose practice time.
“I understand why they’re wanting to do these things, for the safety of the kids, but I don’t know if making less practice is going to be [good for] the safety of the kids when you get into game situations,” Navasota (Texas) High School football coach Lee Fedora told BrazosSports.com.
“I’ve gotta go by what the UIL tells us to do, but I don’t think it’s the right direction,” Fedora said. “I truly believe kids need to get accustomed to the heat and practice where you can coordinate it as a coach and watch and protect them. You can’t do much when all of a sudden August 26th rolls around and you’re in a game.”
Keep in mind: The National Football League completely abolished two-a-day practices in the new collective bargaining agreement signed this summer. The NFL’s new CBA also put tougher restrictions on the average number of padded practices allowed per week (one) and the maximum number of hours players can spend on the field during training camp (4.5).
While Fedora makes the very valid point that no coach wants to send an unprepared player onto the field on game day, it’s worth noting that every team will be playing by the same rules. Besides, aren’t coaches the ones to make the final judgment on which players see the field?
It’s simple. If a player isn’t physically ready to play, don’t play him. That should hold true even if it’s the difference between a win and a loss.
If that means simplifying your playbook at the beginning of the season, so be it.
Given the alternative, should there be any consternation about these changes?
A version of this news article first appeared in the Schooled in Sports blog.