Michigan has become the second state to drastically limit high school football contact hours in practice in accordance with guidelines of safety advocacy group Practice Like Pros.
The Michigan High School Athletic Association representative council passed a bill that prescribing the following limitations on full-contact practices:
- In-season reduction from 90 minutes per week to 30
- Preseason reduced from three hours per day plus scrimmages to six total hours per week, including scrimmages
- Maintain the ban on full-contact in spring and summer football.
The association is following the footsteps of New Jersey, who in February implemented similar rules but with 15 minutes per week in-season, not 30 like Michigan.
MHSAA executive director Mark Uyl said in February most schools already follow guidelines similar to the ones that were established this week.
These limitations are acceptable, he said, because Practice Like Pros encourages the “thud” concept tackling in which the defender wraps up the ball carrier but doesn’t bring him to the ground.
“Adding the thud concept into our definitions was very, very important,” Uyl said. “The thud situation, there’s not a physical winner or loser, nobody’s being taken to the ground. . . . We really needed those three levels: live, thud, and then obviously, contact that isn’t player-to-player.”
Practice Like Pros president Terry O’Neil presented to the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association in late November.
He said the organization goes to the coaches first. Without their approval and self-policing, the guidelines wouldn’t be followed.
O’Neil said approval from the MHSFCA came that day.
MHSFCA executive director Larry Merx said in February that coaches have been adjusting practice habits for years as they realize hours of daily live contact drills aren’t necessary to teach kids how to tackle and prepare them for games.
“We were under impression that you had to hit people to prepare for a game,” Merx said. “The evidence shows that you can still be aggressive and technique-wise, good, and run into people and knock ’em down in games. We can, they’re less bruised up, they’re not as exhausted, you’re in better condition.”
That final part was a key for Merx – he said younger players can get “beat up” on the freshman and junior varsity teams and lose interest going into varsity ball.
Uyl added that it will force coaches to be more detail-oriented and give better feedback.
With this, Michigan high school football officials hope they can limit injuries while increasing participation.
“I think it’s going to become a more enjoyable experience for our young people, and whenever you can kind of be on the leading edge of that, I think that’s a great thing for everybody,” Uyl said.