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IHSA to take vote on football summer contact

Published: Tuesday, March 18, 2014 10:50 p.m. CDT

Whether high school football players in Illinois will be permitted to participate in full-padded summer camps will come down to a vote of IHSA member schools.

On Tuesday, the IHSA’s legislative committee voted to eliminate contact or “live action” drills during the summer. Schools can vote starting Wednesday through midnight April 18. If passed, Illinois would become the 20th state in the country to eliminate full-padded summer workouts.

Results will be announced April 21. Only a simple majority is necessary.

Currently, 29 states allow offseason full-contact drills, either in spring or summer.

Teams are currently allowed to begin practicing in full pads starting on the fifth day of the 25-day summer contact period. While IHSA officials understand most coaches already limit full-contact drills, the rule change would keep “rogue” coaches from not putting any limits on how much players hit one another.

“We think this [proposal] is something that brings some limitations to our summer activities in football that we basically we had no control over,” IHSA associate director and football administrator Craig Anderson said Tuesday. “That opportunity [for coaches to provide unlimited full-contact drills] was concerning on a few different levels. ... It was just time to put into place some protocols that provided some restrictions.”

Under the proposal, schools would only be allowed to practice in helmets for the first two days of summer workouts before moving to helmets and shoulder pads on the third day and beyond.

DeKalb coach Matt Weckler said his team has live hitting in eight or nine of the 25 contact days.

Weckler said the proposal would limit what coaches could do to prepare their players for Week 1 of the regular season.

“I was totally OK with the limited number of hours and stuff (implemented) last year. The limited hours and stuff last year, I didn’t have a problem with it. I would definitely be against the new contact rules, just because I think most coaches these days are pretty confident in terms of what they should and should not do,” Weckler said. “I just think that for kids to be prepared for a game, they have to be put in game-like situations and have to be able to be practicing and doing exactly what they’re expected to do in a situations that are as game-like as possible.

“By taking away hitting I think some kids that are less experienced may not be as prepared as what we as coaches think they should be.”

The IHSA began considering limits after meeting with officials from the Sports Legacy Institute and Korey Stringer Institute as well as conducting town hall meetings with State Rep. Carol Sente, D-Lincolnshire. Anderson said members of the IHSA football advisory committee and sports medicine committee determined that some restrictions needed to be put in place.

Whether the IHSA’s full membership agrees remains to be seen.

“I think (coaches) have reached that point and are understanding that the days of going live in the summer are gone,” Anderson said. “I think the (football) advisory committee believes that they can get the skills and the techniques taught so that in the fall, when it is time to go live and full-contact, they will have developed those techniques.”

• Steve Nitz contributed to this report.

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