(This blog first appeared on August 28, 2012.)
As we have been considering changes for in-season football practice rules that are more in step with recent recommendations of the National Athletic Trainers Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Federation of State High School Associations, as well as the actions of several of our counterpart state organizations across the U.S., we have also been looking at the rules that apply out of season to assure they do not work against the preparation of students for a safe experience.
Except during the school’s designated summer dead period of at least seven consecutive days, football coaches may interact with any number of players in voluntary weight training and conditioning sessions as frequently as they desire. Introduce footballs and helmets, and the coach can still work with any number of students on the sideline and up to seven players at a time for any number of days. Add competition, and the coach can still work with up to seven players at a time for a maximum of seven days. In addition, football coaches may participate for a maximum of 10 days at bona fide football camps where any number of their players are participating.
Plenty of time for coaches to teach, and even more time for players to train. During this time, the rules permit students to wear helmets, which protect against accidental collisions during drills; but the rules prohibit other pads that would allow activities to escalate to the point where contact is expected, leading to increased blows to the head at a time when the objective from the pros to Pop Warner is to reduce blows to the head.
When the brief preseason down time begins Aug. 1, the coach continues to be able to work with any number of players in conditioning and weight training. The down time prohibits those activities that could be a disguise for practice prior to the earliest allowed practice date – open gyms, camps, clinics and competition. The down time puts the emphasis where it’s most needed for a healthy student experience when practice actually begins: that’s weight training and conditioning.
Some critics may focus on what they can’t do in the summer; but clearly, there’s much they can do, and it’s all designed to help players improve and excel in a safe environment.