Football

Salem-Keizer coaches prepare for major change in high school football

Chris Vandiver, the linebacker coach, leads a drill during football practice at West Salem High School on Monday, Aug. 15, 2016.

Chris Vandiver, the linebacker coach, leads a drill during football practice at West Salem High School on Monday, Aug. 15, 2016.

With injuries and participation in mind, there will be a major change in high school football this season, and Salem-Keizer coaches are preparing for the pros and cons.

Junior varsity games, a longtime Thursday night tradition, will be moving to Monday nights, allowing teams to maximize participation, while still keeping player safety a priority.

But the move won’t be easy.

For many high school football programs, Monday is a crucial day of practice. Players and coaches come together to discuss the successes and mistakes from the previous week’s games, and they work on the game plan for the next opponent.

But now, after the varsity plays its game Friday night, the JV team will play that same opponent the following Monday.

So now on Mondays, while the varsity team begins preparation for the next game, the junior varsity team has a game to play that night.

The move allows a larger gap between Friday night varsity and now Monday night junior varsity games, which gives players who play both more time to rest and recover between games.

The OSAA’s rule on weekly participation states:

“A student shall not compete in more than five quarters for the 6A, 5A and six quarters for the 4A, 3A, 2A and 1A each week. To be eligible for six quarters (4A, 3A, 2A, 1A) there has to be a minimum of 60 hours between contests. All players (6A-1A) are limited to 45 total quarters per year during the regular season. The week is defined as running from Tuesday through Monday. Participation in any play in a quarter shall constitute participation in that quarter, no exceptions. If a student appears in more than 45 total quarters during the regular season, the game in which the student exceeds the limit shall be forfeited. 6A and 5A students may be allowed a sixth quarter of participation if the student plays 12 plays or less in any two of the student’s first five quarters that week.”

Brad Garrett, OSAA assistant executive director, said the governing body’s policy helped encourage the move, but did not force it.

“The OSAA did not create policy that forced games to Monday. Now, we did adopt policy that encouraged it,” Garrett said. “The way the policy is structured, basically, if you gap your games and don’t play them back to back, you put that 60-hour gap in, then you earn extra quarters.”

Garrett said that gapping the games by at least 60 hours can protect the health of players.

“Sometimes kids that are concussed, it does not present itself the very next day. It might take a couple of days,” Garrett said. “So it gives a longer period of time to evaluate those types of kids, which is what we want to do to make sure we get it right. Minimizing risk for kids in the game of football is a No. 1 priority.”

In addition to safety concerns, the move also helps coaches increase overall participation in games.

In the past, coaches might limit a player in the junior varsity game just in case the player is needed for varsity. Then if the player is not needed as much in the varsity game, then the week’s playing time was not maximized.

“That kid would get shorted that week,” Garrett said. “The schools that have chosen to move to Mondays have reversed that. Now they can play Friday night’s games, and then can maximize participation on Monday.”

The impact of the move will vary depending on classification and the specific program.

Below are the reactions from all six Salem-Keizer high school football coaches:

West Salem Titans

Coach Shawn Stanley
Head Coach Shawn Stanley talks to his players during football practice at West Salem High School on Monday, Aug. 15, 2016.

Head Coach Shawn Stanley talks to his players during football practice at West Salem High School on Monday, Aug. 15, 2016.

Thoughts on moving JV games to Mondays? “Over a year ago, we started talking a lot about the reality that sometimes concussions or other injuries are not always known the night of. It takes until the next day, or even longer sometimes. From that perspective, I’m all for it. I think it’s a good thing. I think it’s going to help our JV players in the fact that we’re going to play our opponent on a Friday night, and at the end of that game, we’ll know who we have, how many quarters they have for that Monday night JV game. I trust and respect our administration, and if they say this is the direction we’re going to go, I’ll roll with it and do the best I can.”

How will this impact swing players? “We’ve been pretty lucky as far as depth, we haven’t had a ton of swing players. But there’s been years, and know there’s other programs, where you’re rolling the dice on a Thursday night playing a kid because you might need him to play a lot on a Friday.”

How will Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays look now for the program? “It really presents a challenge for those teams that don’t separate their JV and varsity staffs. So for us, I coach all of our kids that play quarterback from sophomore to senior, so I coach the JV and varsity kids. Now some of those kids are going to be gone (on Mondays). All of our guys want to go to the JV game, so it’s going to have to be a balance of keeping things in order and running an efficient practice for the varsity guys, but also give those JV guys the kind of coaching they deserve. Obviously coaches are working Saturdays and Sundays, but we’re not going to have our JV kids practice on Sunday. That’s a special day to me. I try not to cut into that time. We’re just going to have to be more efficient during the week.”

Any concern about having JV players right back at practice on Tuesday after a Monday game? “For sure. We’re lucky enough to have enough kids that we don’t do a lot of crossover between the varsity and JV. No doubt that our JV and varsity Tuesday practices are going to look different, as far as intensity and amount of contact. We don’t do a lot of live contact at practice to begin with. The Tuesday practice is going to be more of a recovery, work out the kinks, sort out the things that went wrong that Monday night with the JV guys. But Tuesday for our varsity guys, that’s our heaviest practice day of the week, so we’re going to have to get after it.”

North Salem Vikings

Coach Jeff Flood
Head Coach Jeff Flood talks to his players during football practice at North Salem High School on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016.

Head Coach Jeff Flood talks to his players during football practice at North Salem High School on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016.

Thoughts on moving JV games to Mondays? “I think the biggest thing is just logistics with coaching staffs. It just makes adding multiple responsibilities on the staff a little bit more difficult. A lot of our staffs are split staffs, meaning you have the same responsibility varsity and JV. The way the schedule has always played out, the Thursday-Friday combination was a lot easier. But now, we just have to adjust. Coaches have to be a little bit more flexible. I think the preparation for a JV game on Monday is a lot more difficult. It is what it is. Every school has to deal with it. I don’t think it gives anybody an advantage or disadvantage.”

How will this impact swing players? “We don’t have 150 guys in our program. I would say it impacts 20 to 30 kids, probably. We had some (JV) guys that we had to save, in the past, for Friday night because we don’t know if a kid is going to get hurt. But going into Monday, you already know if that kid had to play (in the varsity game) or not. So he can play his full complement of quarters and he can develop like he should be developing. And that certainly is a benefit with the schedule.”

How will Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays look now for the program? “The coaches on the staff on a Monday have already gone through the process of preparing for our next opponent, which I think is a difficult task to do. You spend all weekend preparing for the Friday night opponent, and then you have to turn around and play a team Monday that you already planned for and practiced for the week before. So I think that puts a lot of pressure on the JV coaches. I don’t think it’s wise to start planning stuff on Sundays. It’s a pretty important family day for our community. And I think we’ll start to lose kids for football if we start expecting them to be participating six days a week. I think we’re going to have quite a few more mistakes on Mondays having had a few days off. That Friday practice becomes very important for the JV program.”

Any concern about having JV players right back at practice on Tuesday after a Monday game? “I’m anxious to see how it impacts the kids because now the middle of the week is a recovery time. I don’t know how that’s going to impact us because a kid that swings might not be ready to practice again until Thursday, and he’s really missed the bulk of the week for preparation. That’s something we’ll learn as coaches and have to adjust to during the season.”

South Salem Saxons

Coach Scott DuFault
South Salem players runs drills during football practice on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016.

South Salem players runs drills during football practice on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016.

Thoughts on moving JV games to Mondays? “We’re going to do what we do. Obviously we have to make some changes to what we’ve done. It’s just a different deal. I know there are some benefits of it. I think it’s the direction we’re heading in football, so I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing yet, just because I’ve never experienced it, never done it. Just like anything else, change is hard on people. We’ll figure out how to do it, and get it done. It’ll take a little bit of time to adjust, but we’ll all be fine in the end. I understand why they’re doing it. We need to do what we can do to protect kids. If it’s safer to play it on Mondays than Thursdays so they’re not going back-to-back, then I think that’s something we need to do.”

How will this impact swing players? “We have some swing kids that would play on Thursday night and then play some quarters on Friday. Now we’re going to know how many quarters they have going into the JV game, and so most will get to play more football that way, and that’s a benefit of it. I think at the 6A level, it’s not as big a deal. I think it’s a rule that’s going to impact the smaller schools more. I think they do a lot more of it.”

How will Mondays look now for the program? “Staffing is a little bit difficult, but it’s what we’re doing, so we’ll figure it out, and we’ll get it done. It’s new to all of us, and we’re just going to have to feel our way through it. None of us have ever done it before, or at least I haven’t. I can’t speak for anybody else, but I don’t think anybody else has ever done it.”

Any concern about having JV players right back at practice on Tuesday after a Monday game? “We’re going to have to adjust what Tuesday looks like for JV kids.”

Sprague Olympians

Coach Jay Minyard
Sprague players practice on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016, at the school in South Salem.

Sprague players practice on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016, at the school in South Salem.

Thoughts on moving JV games to Mondays? “I’m kind of neutral on the deal. I like it on Thursdays, I think that works fine. I understand, from a medical standpoint, we want to do everything we can now to make the game as safe as possible for the kids. At the 6A level, it might not affect us as much. A kid playing two quarters on a Thursday night full speed, and then coming back and playing another three quarters on Friday night full speed obviously isn’t good for kids. So I understand it completely why they want to do that, and I support it. I’m keeping an open mind and I think it might be a pretty good deal for us. The most important thing is that we do what’s right, from the medical aspect, and keeping kids safe. We’re kind of in a battle right now, I hate to call it a battle, but we’re kind of in a battle with the medical community over the game of football. We certainly don’t want to lose the game that we love. I know there’s a lot of parents with kids that are worried out there. We want to do everything we can to make sure the kids are safe and that our sport continues to grow and thrive.”

How will this impact swing players? “It’s tough to say because it really does vary by the size of classes coming through. Like this year, we have a really big senior class, so there’s going to be a lot less kids that are swinging. Where I think this really comes into play is with the smaller schools. It really does. So other than changing the way we do things daily and week to week as far as practice goes, I don’t see it having a lot of impact.”

How will Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays look now for the program? “We’ve got Plan A, Plan B and Plan C. We’re going to start out with our Plan A with the way we want to attack that, and if we don’t like it, you know, I think there’s going to be some growing pains. There’s going to be changes throughout the season, I think, as we settle in to this type of schedule. As I said, we’ve got a plan of attack at this point. If we go through the first week or so and don’t like it, we’ll change some things. We give our kids the weekends off. I’ve always done that since I started coaching. I’ve always given Saturdays and Sundays completely off to the kids. I want them to rest, I want them to recover. You’ve got to spend time with family.”

Any concern about having JV players having so many days off before their game on Monday? “It depends on your schedule and where you’re playing on Friday. If you’re playing at home, I don’t see any reason why there shouldn’t be at least run-through in at least T-shirts and shorts, working on fundamentals and preparing for the next opponent. In our situation, like if you’re playing a game up at Forest Grove, then that’s going to be really hard to do. So there probably will be some times when they’ll have three days off, and there might be some (Fridays) when we get them out there. We’ll have to adjust that on a week-by-week basis. I think this first year, everybody is going to go through a little trial and error.”

McNary Celtics

Coach Jeff Auvinen
McNary High School senior A.J. Johnk warms up at a team practice on Monday, Aug. 15, 2016. After recovering from a torn ACL in 2014, Johnk is back and ready to play for the varsity team again.

McNary High School senior A.J. Johnk warms up at a team practice on Monday, Aug. 15, 2016. After recovering from a torn ACL in 2014, Johnk is back and ready to play for the varsity team again.

Thoughts on moving JV games to Mondays? “I think it’s got good points and bad points. I think the good points are those kids that are playing both JV and varsity get a couple days off between heavy-contact days. So in the past, you would play Thursday at 6 (p.m.), and by the time they’re done with their game, it’s 9 o’clock. And when they turn around and go to school, play the next day, from a player’s perspective, they can be pretty sore the next day. So this gives them a couple of days off to rest their bodies and ice themselves down and get to full strength on Monday.”

How will this impact swing players? “The other thing is it allows us to maximize quarters a little bit. Because I don’t know how many years, ‘oh, we need to save quarters of varsity time for a kid because he’s a No. 2 at his position, and then he ends up playing just a few plays, and so we waste a few quarters. Now, if he plays a quarter in the varsity, then he’s got four quarters left for JV. Hopefully those kids will progress. We’ve never done it this way, so it will be interesting.”

How will Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays look now for the program? “Negatively-wise, it’s going to kind of mess up your game-planning for the next week on Monday. Because those kids who are swing-type players, play JV and varsity, you want them to be a part of the walk-throughs and the game-planning on Monday, so that kind of gets in the way there. Another possible negative, as a program, you’ll want to have some sort of JV walk-through because it would be tough to go from Friday through the weekend and then Monday play the game without moving your body around a little bit and go through the game plan. It puts a little crimp into some family plans potentially over the weekend. I don’t know how each program is going to do it, we still haven’t decided yet if we’re going to do a Saturday or a Sunday get-together and talk about prepping for the game. I think as valuable as weekends are for families, I think to give the kids the best opportunity to compete, to make it safe for them, I think you have to get them back into that mode a little bit. A lot of us have been around quite a while and we have a way that works for us. And so this is going to put a tweak in those plans. Trial and error, I think that’s a good way to describe it.”

Any concern about having JV players right back at practice on Tuesday after a Monday game? “That’s a good point there, that’s going to be another trial and error thing. They’re going to be going to school and sitting behind a desk in classes all day, yeah that’s a good question.”

McKay Royal Scots

Coach Josh Riddell
McKay players practice on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016.

McKay players practice on Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016.

Thoughts on moving JV games to Mondays? “My initial reaction is that it’s kind of hectic for coaching staffs. We’re going to have to do some adjusting with the schedule and how we’re going to have the JV kids practicing. Being a first-year head coach, it makes planning a little difficult. I understand why they do it, but I’m not necessarily a fan of it. But here’s the thing, they didn’t ask me. They don’t give a damn what I have to say. So I’m just rolling with it.”

How will this impact swing players? “I don’t particularly see it being a big impact on us because the kids on the two-deep (depth chart), they’re going to play straight varsity. Those kids that are in the mix to be in the two-deep, three-deep, borderline, those kids are going to get reps quarter-wise. The good thing, I guess, the one positive that comes out of it, obviously, is that if we need to play them Friday night in the varsity game, we can play them however many quarters we need to, and then in the JV game, they can just sit out if they need to.”

How will Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays look now for the program? “I don’t want to go into a JV game and not practice Friday because of the varsity game, not practice Saturday, not practice Sunday, have three days off and then go play a game on Monday. We’re trying to figure out a way to get those JV kids in during the weekend sometime and get a little walk-through in, at least. We want to get them in on the weekend, and right now it’s going to be a voluntary thing because I’m not going to make it mandatory on Sunday for a kid to come in when they have other obligations. But I want those kids to come in because I want them to understand where they need to be and what they need to do. On Mondays, when we have to practice the varsity, but we also have a JV game, it’s going to be tough for the coaches. They’ll have to stay for the varsity practice, and then go to the JV game. You’ve got to roll with the punches, I guess.”

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