By Tamas Mondovics
The first practice day, including the routine acclimatization period of the 2016 season, is to begin on August 1 and comes with another major change for football teams.
Keeping in harmony with its efforts to improve and maintain player safety, the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) announced the implementation of procedures which limit live contact during practices.
Both the preseason and spring session will begin with a five-day acclimatization period without contact or full pads for a maximum of three hours.
In an online press release, FHSAA officials explained that during the regular season, live contact will be restricted to 30 minutes per day and 80 minutes total per week.
Live contact, or drills with game-like conditions where players are taken to the ground, will be limited to no more than two consecutive days and not to exceed three practice days per week.
“Player safety has and will always be the number one goal of the FHSAA,” FHSAA Executive Director Dr. Roger Dearing said. “Protecting our student-athletes is paramount in growing the game of football and this administrative procedure is a step in the right direction.”
The release explained that from day six through Monday of the first regular season game (or end of spring practice), live contact will be limited to 40 minutes each day, with no more than two straight days of live contact. During double practice days, only one practice can include live contact and not surpass 40 minutes.
Acknowledging the dangers of the sport, FHSAA Football Administrator Frank Beasley said, “The game of football will always come with some inherent risk, but we will never stop working to try and make one of the greatest team sports on earth safer.”
Beasley emphasized the importance of education when he stated that the FHSAA will continue its efforts to teach coaches on the Drive to December about how to run effective practices while using the limited-contact procedures.
Student safety and making changes necessary to protect its athletes is by no means new for the FHSAA. Just last year FHSAA officials announced additional safety changes, including a mandatory course on concussion, along with an online test, before athletes take one foot on the athletic field, court or gym.
FHSAA officials noted that, while the additional process is a considerable undertaking for programs like football with its more sizable roster, the effort was an important one covering all involved especially since the stakes are high for student-athletes dreaming to someday play in the big leagues.
The FHSAA supervises and regulates interscholastic athletic programs for high school students at member public, private and charter schools. The organization also recognizes and honors academic achievement among student-athletes at almost 800 middle, junior and senior high schools statewide. Headquartered in Gainesville, it is the official governing body for interscholastic athletics in Florida.
To reach its latest decision, the association said that it worked alongside Practice Like Pros founder Terry O’Neil who has worked with high school associations nationally to improve player safety in America.
“We thank leadership of the FHSAA for working with us on these practice-field restrictions,” O’Neil said. “As a trendsetter and a top-three football state, Florida sends this message nationally: In order to preserve the game we love on Friday nights and Saturday afternoons, let’s mitigate risk Monday through Thursday.”