Local football coaches will be making some changes as to how they conduct their practices this season after the WIAA set new limits on how much contact their players can have during practice sessions and the amount of time they can practice. The changes were made in hopes of having less injuries to players throughout the season and less problems with the usual high heat and humidity early on.
According to the WIAA, there are five basic types of player on player contact which includes three areas including Air (players 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 standing behind the bag, and Wrap or Control (drills run at full speed until contact, which is above the waist with the players remaining on their feet. Competition and full contact drills include Thud (same as wrap but tempo is competitive with no pre-determined winner and the players are not tackling to the ground) and Live Competition or Full Contact (football drills or live game simulations where live action occurs—game speed where players execute full tackles at a competitive pace taking players to the ground).
The limitations on these drills include in the first week, only drill contact (Air, Bags and Wrap) is allowed. In week two, Air, Bags and Wrap is unlimited and Thud and Live Competition is limited to 75 minutes per week, excluding a scrimmage. In week three and beyond, Air, Bags and Wrap are unlimited and Thud and Live Competition is limited to 60 minutes per week which excludes games.
Time limits for practice has also been changed with the first two weeks of physical activity amounting to only three hours a day with a 30 minute required recovery period. Every other day can be a two -a-day practice, with the second practice lasting no more then an hour and a half.
Colfax High School varsity coach Mark Maloney not only has the problem of finding a place for his team to practice (there is still some debris being found on the field from the tornado damage last month) but also with the new contact rules.
“I think most coaches already used common sense for heat acclimation,” Maloney said. “My philosophy on contact is I think it is a waste to get a kid injured on a practice field but injuries are going to happen no matter what the situation. We do have a lot of “live to the whistle” drills where we stop them before going to the ground. There is still “Thud” happening so we will have to watch our time and make adjustments. It will be an interesting year,” he added.
Just 12 miles down the road, second year Elk Mound coach Dave Lew believes since the new rules were given to them well in advance, it should not be too difficult to keep track of them.
“The rules are very straight forward and we have great resources so I feel the transition will be OK,” he said. “I will support the WIAA and Wisconsin Football Coaches Association and follow the new rules. I am not sure about the rules causing less injuries because I feel for that to happen, athletes need to prepare in the weight room all year long as well as condition all summer. Most injuries are the direct result of fatigue, so the better athletes prepare themselves, the less chance for injury, in my opinion. As coaches in any sport it is our job to keep our athletes safe, and hopefully we teach them enough during their seasons that in the off-season they can prepare better with their teammates for their sport.”
Larger schools may have more of a problem with the contact rules since they need the first two weeks to determine who their best players are. But both Colfax and Elk Mound are small enough that the coaching staff is aware of who there players are and whether they have been conditioning during the off season. With football practice beginning this week, both coaches will find out early whether the new guidelines will have any effect on injuries.