New statewide rule aims to limit school football hits

Limits on full contact during high school and modified football practices were put in place Friday b
Members of the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake varsity football practice at the school on Wednesday, August 20, 2014.
Members of the Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake varsity football practice at the school on Wednesday, August 20, 2014.

Over the years, Gary VanDerzee has seen a trend develop where high school football coaches have called for less helmet and shoulder popping during practice sessions.

Now, it’s a state rule.

“The football committee did it to be proactive, with the safety issues and the concussion issues out there,” VanDerzee, Ravena-Coeymans-Selkirk’s longtime varsity coach and the state football chairman, said Friday. “Anything we can do to make the game safer is a good thing.”

Limits on full contact during high school and modified football practices were put in place by the New York State Public High School Athletic Association.

“It’s all for the safety of the kids,” said Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake varsity coach Matt Shell. “With the concussion deal, and the knowledge you have, it encourages restrictions to come into play.”

The NYSPHSAA Executive Committee unanimously approved the practice restrictions that begin in August at its quarterly meeting in Troy following a recommendation by the committee VanDerzee oversees.

“It models the same program they follow in California that was passed in legislation,” said VanDerzee. “It helps corral the renegade coach.”

A release from the NYSPHSAA states: “It was voted to limit contact to no more than two ‘full contact practices’ per week during the season, with no ‘full contact’ session to exceed 90 minutes. ‘Full contact’ is defined as a practice where drills or live action is conducted that involves collisions at game speed where players execute tackles and other activity that is typical of an actual tackle football game.”

VanDerzee said on full-contact days, teams will be allowed to work on other aspects of the game outside of those 90 minutes if they choose to use all of that allotted time. No restrictions were placed on non-contact days.

“I don’t think it’s going to change much. Maybe we’ll have to make a few adjustments,” said Shell. “Coaches are already pretty good about everything.”

“We knew it was coming. We had a discussion in Section II and how it won’t really affect what we do,” said LaSalle Institute varsity coach Al Rapp. “Monday is film. Tuesday is [upper body work]. Wednesday, we go full. Thursday, we pull back. Friday, we play.”

That’s a common routine throughout Section II.

“It’s not a bad rule, but it’s kind of irrelevant. We never went three full days of full contact,” said Schenectady senior Colby Youngblood, who played two varsity seasons with the Patriots. “With too much full contact, you just tire your players out.”

“I don’t know of any schools that go full contact all the time,” said Schenectady senior Hassan Miller, who played three seasons of varsity ball. “Maybe the NFL does it. In high school, you want to keep guys fresh and healthy.”

That is the idea of limited contact between games.

“The game has changed. The old days of lining up and banging helmets for a full practice are gone,” said VanDerzee. “The game has become more cerebral. You break things up into 10-, 15-minute segments. You do individual stuff. You’re working on offensive and defensive schemes.”

Rapp said excessive mid-week contact can hurt a team with a small roster.

“If a coach is going to do that, they’re not going to have a successful season,” he said. “They’re not going to have enough guys to play.”

“We’ve got excellent coaches around here,” said Saratoga Central Catholic athletic director and former football coach Phonsey Lambert. “Right now, the philosophy with most coaches is, ‘Don’t bend the stinger during the week.’ ”

The NYSPHSAA Executive Committee also approved sites for four state championships at its meeting. In a unanimous vote, the football finals will remain at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse through 2018, and the East Region semifinals will remain at Dietz Stadium in Kingston through 2017. The football West Region semifinals were approved unanimously to move to Cicero-North Syracuse High School for 2015 and 2016, which will be the first time C-NS will host the event.

Ice hockey was approved by a 16-6 vote to move from the Utica Memorial Auditorium to the HarborCenter in Buffalo, home of Canisius College and the NHL Combine, for the 2016-18 tournaments. Ice hockey was in Utica for 27 years until Buffalo and Rochester made competitive bids in March for the event.

Categories: -News-, High School Sports

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