, Port Arthur, Texas

April 23, 2013

UIL has football coaches debating "full contact"

David Coleman
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — What’s the definition of full contact?

That’s the question that many area coaches have to be asking themselves as the University Scholastic League’s Medical Advisory Committee recommended a policy on Sunday that football teams are limited to 90 minutes of full-contact, game-speed practice per player per week.

That recommendation still has steps to go before becoming a rule, as it has to get voted on by the UIL Legislative Council in June and then approved by the state’s commissioner of education. The ruling seems to be in response to House Bill 887, filed by State Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-Brownsville, which sought to limit full-contact practice to once a week as a way to reduce concussion risks.

Since the Medical Advisory Committee’s inception in 2001, all of its recommendations have been approved.

“Anything that can make the game safer is a good thing,” Nederland head coach Larry Neumann said. “The nature of this sport is risky. We train our players to be durable and to stand up to the rigors of the game, both in the offseason and through our practices. It’s not just about being bigger, stronger and faster, it’s about being able to endure. We’d have to see how they define full-contact, because that definition can vary coach by coach.”

No high school coach wants his players injured. That’s why many already limit the amount of contact in practice, so that injuries don’t pop up unexpectedly in a drill.

Of all the questions surrounding this measure, the biggest one is what constistutes full-contact, game-speed practices.

“We really would need to see what the definition of full-contact is,” Port Neches-Groves head coach Brandon Faircloth said. “If it’s to the thud, or to the initial contact, that could change some things for us. But, we don’t really do full-contact during the week right now. We’re nowhere close to 90 minutes of full contact a week. I can’t imagine anyone these days going 90 minutes a week. You just can’t afford the risks.”

The language in the recommendation states to define “full-contact” practices as those that go at game speed with tackling or blocking to the ground.

By that definition, none of the three local high schools will have to change much to their practice routines to comply with the possible rule. Both Faircloth and Neumann said they rarely go full-contact during the week and, if they do, it’s never for longer than 90 minutes.

That’s because practice time during the week is limited already. Most coaches have about two hours to work with on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of a game week to prepare their teams. Thursday is treated as a lighter day, often with teams in shirts, shorts and helmets or some variation of that.

In those three practices of two hours, coaches also have to work in positional work and drills, warmups and conditioning. Most of the time coaches spend on teaching situations, like working with the first team offense against a JV group on defense, the players go until contact, but are told not to take the player to the ground.

So, the amount of time where scrimmage-type situations are going on is already limited during a game week. This just puts a finer point on it.

“To my opinion, we don’t do any full speed contact until Friday,” Neumann said. “We have them fit up on a tackle or block, but don’t take them to the ground. There’s a collision that occurs at full-speed, but not like in a game. We don’t want anyone getting injured out there on the practice field.”