Coaches adapt to new rules set to limit concussions

Colonel Crawford coach Ryan Teglovic likes the new safeguards adopted by the Ohio High School Athletic Association if they lessen the “assault on football.”

Colonel Crawford coach Ryan Teglovic likes the new safeguards adopted by the Ohio High School Athletic Association if they lessen the “assault on football.”

Wynford football coach Gabe Helbert is all for any changes in policy that will enhance player safety. But he’s not crazy about other schools catching on to what has worked so well for the Royals for so long.

They save themselves for Friday night.

Because of practice modifications enacted by the Ohio High School Athletic Association to minimize concussion risks, more schools will almost surely be taking the Royals’ approach.

Their little secret is out.

“I don’t like the sound of that,” Helbert said with a laugh.

The OHSAA this summer joined dozens of other states in adopting recommendations from the National Federation of State High School Associations Concussion Summit Task Force, which will reduce the risk in football for concussions and head impact exposure.

In Ohio, that brought about two significant changes, one which was immediately felt by some teams during preseason drills.

When more than one practice takes play in a day, full contact is permitted only during one of the practices. With the importance of recovery time in minimizing concussion risks, consideration also should be given to the timing of full contact the next day.

In other words, if a team has its contact session in the afternoon, there should not be contact during the morning session of two-a-days the following day.

The other major change applies after the first regular season game.

Players are limited to 30 minutes of full contact in practice per day and a total of 60 minutes per week. They also cannot be involved in full contact in more than two practices in a seven-day span.

In the case of Helbert’s Royals, it will be business as usual.

“We don’t hit a whole lot in practice, and we never take our backs to the ground,” he said. “We haven’t taken the backs to the ground in the 12 to 13 years I’ve been at Wynford.

“Contact-wise, most of our stuff is just forming up and working on the technique of tackling, but not really bringing guys down. At a small school, it’s tough to beat up on each other.”

Helbert’s dad, Steve, the defensive coordinator at Wynford and former architect of some great defenses at Mansfield Senior, has had a major influence on his son’s way of thinking.

Reigning Northern 10 Conference Coach of the Year Gabe Helbert addresses his Wynford Royals during a preseason practice. Helbert says new rules to lessen the risk of concussions won’t affect his program.

Reigning Northern 10 Conference Coach of the Year Gabe Helbert addresses his Wynford Royals during a preseason practice. Helbert says new rules to lessen the risk of concussions won’t affect his program.

“He always said and brought (that philosophy) to Wynford, to Travis (Moyer, former Royals coach), who was on board with it as well — that there’s no reason to beat ourselves up during the week when we’re trying to win on Friday night,” Helbert said.

“I know (state power) Kirtland is going to tackle every day. I’ve heard (coach) Tiger LaVerde say that at some of the clinics. It’s just a different philosophy. Our kids are pretty aggressive and understand how to tackle without taking (ball carriers) to the ground. I just think it takes a toll on your body during the week.”

The only noticeable change at Wynford is that the Royals are using shields more for interior drills. Contact with soft equipment such as shields, bags, sleds, etc., does not count toward full contact limitations.

“I get frustrated by all the rules and regulations, but this doesn’t bother me too bad because I feel there’s a bit of an assault on football,” Colonel Crawford coach Ryan Teglovic said. “If there are things we can do common sense-wise that don’t hurt the integrity of the game and there’s things we can do to minimize injury, minimize risk, then we need to do them or the game will be taken from us.

“If this is what we need to keep the game intact, then let’s do it.”

Like Helbert, Teglovic doesn’t anticipate any major adjustments because of the rule modifications.

“It gives us pause to think about how much contact you’re having with your kids,” he said. “It was something we were thinking about already.

“You’ve got to get some contact in, so you can see who can hit, but in the end, you don’t want to see kids get hurt.”

Teglovic’s sixth-grade son, Nick, played tackle football for the first time last season.

“I don’t know how I felt about that,” he said. “We push kids in so stinking young anymore that it may be as much a problem as anything.

“We start kids tackling in third and fourth grade when we (as youngsters) didn’t start tackling until we were in junior high. These young kids are out there banging on each other, and they’re burned out before they even get to high school.

“If you want to look at wear and tear, maybe limit the younger kids and make them play flag football till they get to junior high.”

In the past, Shelby coach Erik Will would split up his two-a-day sessions to work on offense in one and defense in the other. This year, he was forced to designate one session for doing all of the hitting instead of spreading it out between the two.

“It’s not a huge problem, just an adjustment,” he said. “Most of the stuff we do isn’t full-go. We’re in compliance with the terminology of playing to a ‘thud.’ Our line is going pretty hard, but we’re just wrapping the backs up.”

The big change, he admits, comes after the first game with the new “30-60” rule. The time limits, he feels, are open to interpretation.

Does it mean 30 minutes of actual hitting? Or does it mean whatever hitting can be done in a 30-minute span?

“I’ve heard people say, ‘How do you regulate 30 minutes?’ ” he said. “An average play only lasts four to six seconds. So if you do four to six seconds and you’re hitting, you can hit quite a bit, right? In a (30-minute) session, they’re probably only hitting three or four minutes.

“I haven’t really gotten a clarification.”

Will talked to Steve Hale, president of the state coaches association, someone Will coached for at Olentangy Liberty. Hale told him he reads the rule to mean “per session.”

“That makes sense because they’re not going to have the ability to go through and say, ‘OK, you ran 15 plays and you hit for five or six seconds a play, so let’s do the math,’ ” Will said. “Obviously, you’re not going to do that. What we have to do is make sure we maximize those 30 minutes each day.”

In regulating the rules, Will said, it comes down to the honor system — teams self-policing.

“There’s only one way it becomes an issue,” he said. “A kid gets injured and they go back and do an evaluation … wait a minute, they’re hitting more than 60 minutes. And then you get in trouble.

“I can’t look at our kids and preach about personal responsibility and doing what you’re supposed to do when you’re supposed to do it and then turn around and try to skirt the system. The last thing Shelby needs is a black eye because a coach wanted to hit for 10 extra minutes.”


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