DE PERE — A major concern for football coaches, obviously, is winning football games, but another major concern is players' safety.
Thursday, the WIAA’s Board of Control approved a recommendation that places limitations on player-to-player contact in practices.
Football may be a contact sport, but players’ safety is of the utmost importance and local coaches know that.
“Obviously players’ safety should come first, I know it does in our program,” Kimberly coach Steve Jones said. “I think the majority of programs in the state it’s about the kids and their safety, so having a protocol in place is the best thing overall."
"Smart move by the WIAA to get out in front of this,” West De Pere coach Jack Batten said. “I think it's wise for our organization to be proactive. Anything we can do to prevent injury and help our kids make it through an entire season is smart."
There are now five categories for player-on-player contact drills, and limitations are placed on the competition/full contact designations.
For the first week of practice, no full contact is permitted. In the second week of practice, full contact is limited to 75 minutes per week, excluding a scrimmage; and for the third week and beyond, 60 minutes of full contact is permitted per week, excluding games.
Batten said the new protocol isn’t a big deal.
"Our practices are typically an hour and a half, an hour and 45 minutes,” Batten said. “We don't hit all that much. I don't think it's all that big of a deal."
Jones feels many programs are already on par with limiting contact.
"It's really not going to affect the majority of schools; especially in our area,” Jones said. “The coaches I've talked to, the majority of coaches nowadays are doing something similar to what we are; we're not tackling them to the ground.
“Our goal is to make sure the kids are healthy and being ready for Friday nights."
While most teams already have taken measures to protect their players, the new direction of limiting contact does mean coaches have to balance things out.
"The toughest thing for a football coach right now is breeding toughness,” Jones said. “We want our kids to be tough and physical, but to keep them safe, keep them healthy and get to Friday night when it really matters."
Football contact regulations
5 basic types of contact
Air – Players should run unopposed without bags or any opposition.
Bags – Activity is executed against a bag, shield, or pad to allow for a soft-contact surface, with or without the resistance of a teammate or coach holding the bag.
Wrap – Drills run at full speed until contact, which is above the waist with the players remaining on their feet.
Thud – Same as wrap but tempo is competitive with no pre-determined winner and the players are not tackling to the ground.
Live Competition or Full Contact – Full contact is defined as football drills or live game simulations where live action occurs – game speed where players execute full tackles at competitive pace taking players to the ground.
—The first three (Air, Bags and Wrap) have no restrictions/limitations.
—The last two (Thud and Live Competition/Full Contact) have weekly time restrictions/limitations
Limitations are the following
Week 1 — Air, Bags and Wrap Only (unlimited) following the Acclimatization Regulations (No Full Pads).
Week 2 — Air, Bags and Wrap are unlimited. Thud and Live Competition/Full Contact are limited to 75 minutes for the week, besides your scrimmage with another team(s).
Week 3 and beyond — Air, Bags and Wrap are unlimited. Thud and Live Competition/Full Contact are limited to 60 minutes/week, excluding the amount of time you participate in games, which is a maximum of two games within a week (JV & varsity or varsity and varsity reserve) which is the current regulation.
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