The Iowa High School Athletic Association plans to ban two-a-day football practices, starting this season, in a series of new regulations aimed at player safety.
The changes, which also limit total practice time, will be outlined in a presentation by IHSAA executive director Rick Wulkow to athletic directors later this month.
Wulkow said in an interview with The Des Moines Register the actions “will be in the best interest of the kids as far as heat illness.”
Wulkow declined to provide specifics but did say eliminating two-a-days would be one of the changes. But notes from a March 8 IHSAA Board of Control meeting, obtained by the Iowa City Press-Citizen, outlined the changes that were adopted.
Actions approved by the nine-member board included the following:
* No more than one practice per day.
* Total practice time may not exceed three hours of physical activity.
* Helmets only (no pads) for the first two days of practice.
* No full contact until the sixth practice.
* No practices on Sunday.
* No full-contact scrimmages until 10 practices have been completed.
The changes brought criticism and concern from coaches around the state.
Solon football coach Kevin Miller is worried about the rise of team summer camps. Several colleges offer camps, which allow high school teams to get into full pads.
“We were one of the first teams to go to a team camp in 2004 at Winona State,” Miller said. “We got a few players dinged up, and I promised myself we were not going to do that again.”
But the IHSAA doesn’t have any guidelines for such camps, meaning the new restrictions could encourage some coaches to participate in more.
“It’s become a big thing in the last five or six years,” Miller said. “That opens up a whole new can of worms.”
Before the changes, the IHSAA did not have regulations about how long practices could last.
With practices being limited to three hours, Waukee football coach Scott Carlson worried that some coaches also would limit breaks.
“If you get three hard hours in the sun, I think that kind of defeats the purpose of trying to acclimate kids to the heat,” Carlson said.
Wulkow noted that many states already have implemented some of the changes with heat-related illnesses popping up across the nation. He said the board of control voted unanimously on the changes.
“There will be some coaches that will have some reservations,” Wulkow said.
That list includes Wilton coach Lance Pedersen, who said player focus is better during two-a-days rather than one long practice. Additionally, he was concerned that the change would mean all practice time would be forced into the hottest part of the day.
“It doesn’t say you have to have an afternoon practice, but most coaches on my staff have jobs elsewhere,” Pedersen said. “I don’t think that’s ideal for us. That’s such a hot time period.”
Carlson said he understood that the changes might draw criticism with softer practice schedules for players than in the past.
“Things were different 25 years ago,” Carlson said. “Most kids in the state of Iowa spent a lot of time outside in the summer. A lot of them were working on the farms bailing hay, doing all that kind of stuff on a regular basis. I don’t think there’s any question that that’s not what most kids do in this day and age.”
West Des Moines Dowling coach Tom Wilson said he’ll make whatever adjustments are needed.
“Whatever the rules are, my job is to follow them and try to get my team as prepared as I possibly can under those rules,” Wilson said.