It’s still about 10 weeks away from the start of high school football practice in early August and the MHSAA has put in new limitations for the allotment on collision practice time.
A few years ago, the MHSAA implemented a rule to limit full-contact practice to no more than two days a week following the opening game of the season.
Earlier this month, the MHSAA put in a new rule where after the first game of the season, teams are only allowed 90 minutes of collision practice per week.
“This came out of a rule from two days of practice per week with no cap on the amount of contact to now 90 minutes regardless of how many days during the week you decided to hit,” MHSAA communications director John Johnson said.
“We surveyed schools and asked, ‘How much are you hitting?’ and all the results came back that 90 minutes seemed to be the spot close to the middle, some hit more, some less. When the football committee discussed it they decided to not place a number of days that you could have contact, but rather limit the total of collision practice to 90 minutes a week.”
The new rule shouldn’t make too much of a difference in their practice schedules, according to multiple head coaches.
Canton’s Tim Baechler, Utica Eisenhower’s Chris Smith and Detroit King’s Tyrone Spencer have all enjoyed a great deal of success during their coaching careers. Baechler has earned more than 200 wins during his career, Smith guided Eisenhower to the Division 1 state semifinals last year and Spencer led King to the Division 2 state title last season.
“We’re kind of set in our ways where we’re still going to come out in our shorts on Mondays and Thursdays, so we’re not going to have full collision on Mondays and Thursdays,” Baechler said. “But Tuesdays and Wednesdays, my gosh, that gives you 45 minutes a day so I don’t even think we’ll have a problem coming to that.
“I think the biggest thing I think we complain about as high school coaches is not having enough contact before the first game. Getting our kids toughened up, getting our kids blocking and tackling tough before the first game and that’s the biggest issue we have. We just don’t feel the kids are ready, not skilled at blocking and tackling in that two- or three-week period, but after that first game you can’t afford to get anyone hurt so you’re not going to go that 90 minutes.”
Baechler also touched on the limitations in place for preseason practice.
“You get that one padded practice and the other one’s not,” Baechler said of the rule that was implemented three years ago, the same time the two days of collision practice after the first game was also put in place.
“Normally we came out in the morning and that was our defensive practice and then you came out in the second and that was our offensive practice. Now, we’ve switched it around and go to special teams and walkthrough stuff in the morning session, then in the second session we do offense and defense and try to cram in all that blocking and tackling in that second session.
“Before you could hit in both sessions so there was more contact and football type of conditioning and I think that’s hurt everybody (with current rule). I feel that every coach feels they go into that first game like we’re not in the shape we used to be in, we’re not toughened up yet, just haven’t had enough reps of full, wide collision.”
Smith and Spencer understand why the MHSAA wants to limit the amount of collision practice.
“We probably don’t even do that much collision to begin with so I think the rule is a good rule, trying to protect kids and it’s a way to protect our sport since our sport is under attack already,” Smith said. “It’s safer than it’s ever been and I think these rules just helps protect the kids and the sport.”
Said Spencer: “It used to be just two days of collision practice, no time limit, but sometimes you’re not even hitting two days a week because once you get into the season it’s different. Camp is one thing because you’re trying to find guys, see who can do what.
“Now, you have to be innovative, creative, find new ways to get better because this concussion thing is serious. You shouldn’t be hitting three or four days a week during the season.”