One by one, the varying governing bodies or associations for high school football coaches have started to support a new policy limiting full contact during practice.
Spurred by the recent nationwide concussion awareness campaign, the South Carolina High School League (SCHSL) Executive Committee on Wednesday voted to support the state’s football coaches association recommendation to cap hitting over the course of a week’s practices to 90 minutes. The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) previously supported the motion, as did the South Carolina Trainers Association.
However, the reaction from local football coaches was a resounding “Meh.”
It wasn’t that the Grand Strand’s coaches aren’t in favor of player safety. Rather, between enforcement, a lack of clarification of the SCHSL’s definition of “full contact” or a previous lessening of hitting, the motion itself may be relatively meaningless.
“I don’t think you should mandate that which you can not enforce. How will you adequately define a drill to determine if contact is there?” Conway coach Chuck Jordan said. “Our routine probably does not include more than 90 minutes a week of full contact anyway, but again, how will contact or hitting be defined?”
Eight of the area’s 12 varsity football coaches immediately responded to an informal survey from The Sun News asking for their reaction to the executive committee’s decision. While some had concerns over enforcement or players being acclimated to contact on game days, every one of them stated in one form or another that the ruling will likely not affect them.
I think it’s a great rule from a liability standpoint. Not sure how to govern the rule, but if anyone is hitting more than 90 minutes a week in 2016, they are nuts.
Aynor football coach Jody Jenerette
Socastee coach Doug Illing said most high school coaches have taken cues from college clinics in which hitting is limited to two days a week – usually Tuesdays and Wednesdays during a normal practice week – with the other two days reserved for game plan execution based on film study or in-house fine tuning. In those other days, players are typically wearing shells (helmets and shoulder pads).
Others backed up Illing’s statements, stating that their teams haven’t been going full-bore throughout the week in some time. Still, Jordan’s questions regarding enforcement were echoed by others locally.
Multiple coaches brought up “thud” contact, where a tackle is initiated but players are not taken to the ground. It is not considered full contact by most coaches, but helmet to helmet hits still occur in those drills, albeit at a slightly slower speed since the intent is not the full-fledged tackle.
According to the NFHS task force that largely initiated the movement, thud tackling and full-contact drills are lumped into the same category, although the SCHSL did not immediately specify its rule or how it would be enforced moving forward. It also specified only regular-season and postseason practices, with no mention of preseason camps.
Either way, South Carolina is joining states that have already put boundaries in place.
A NFHS release credits Texas as the first to limit contact during the week, something it did in 2013. Others followed suit, and some, like Ohio, even went with a 60-minute threshold while certain states nixed offseason contact altogether.
Again, though, the SCHSL ruling may matter very little outside of a seemingly small number of coaches who use an abundance of contact throughout the week. Locally, that just isn’t happening.
“I think it’s a great rule from a liability standpoint,” said Aynor’s Jody Jenerette, who has in the past withheld contact in practice for days or weeks on end during his time there. “Not sure how to govern the rule, but if anyone is hitting more than 90 minutes a week in 2016, they are nuts.”