Ironically, some people are ready to fight over a rule that limits physicality.
The University Interscholastic League recently approved an amendment requiring high school football practices to limit the amount of full contact to 90 minutes per week. As long as Texas commissioner of education Michael Williams approves the action, it will go into effect Aug. 1.
Seems harmless enough, right? Children endure less game-speed contact and, hopefully, avoid any additional injuries.
Well, why are so many parents and fans up in arms?
Basically, it has to do with an inaccurate perception the public has concerning the physicality accompanying typical high school practices.
It makes sense to think players need more than 90 minutes of full contact practice in order to be prepared for a game that usually lasts close to two and a half hours, but, according to a number of area coaches, the new rule will make virtually no impact on the way practices are conducted.
Most agree, in order to survive a 16-game season, which is ultimately what it takes to win a state championship, players cannot be subjected to excessive bouts of full contact practice anyway. Obviously, football is an extremely physical sport and players are often nursing injuries in between games. It makes no sense to further beat on a bruised body, especially when you need it to perform at a high level at kickoff.
Much of the confusion stems with the phrase “full contact.” As defined by the UIL, full contact is “contact at game speed where players execute full tackles at a competitive pace, taking players to the ground.”
For most coaches, by that definition, the 90-minute rule is practically already in effect.
Some believe the UIL is instilling this rule as a way to appease the Texas legislature, preventing it from attempting to interfere in high school athletics, which is something I fully agree with.
Unfortunately, that is not the way it is being interpreted by parents and fans who believe less than 90 minutes of full contact practice per week will actually increase injuries on Friday nights. Many opponents believe it will cause players and coaches to attempt to circumvent the system by conducting full contact workouts in other ways, and thus breaking the rule.
Others are simply opposed because they feel the lack of contact somehow makes the players “soft” and, in turn, the sport itself is becoming a shell of itself.
While people are turning to social media in droves with their displeasure with the 90-minute limitation, the real travesty is the rule being made official in the first place.
Texas football coaches do not receive enough credit. Too many people still believe they are running players ragged in the sweltering heat and preventing them from properly hydrating, much like how Bear Bryant was depicted in the book and subsequent movie “The Junction Boys.”
Nothing could be further from the truth. If anything, a majority of coaches avoid overexerting their players like the plague.
It is a shame people, whether it be the UIL, fans, parents or state government, believe coaches need to be specifically told not to overwork players. I am sure there are some bad-apple coaches, who might overstep the boundaries of common sense, but, for the most part, I feel strongly that student athletes are in capable, dedicated and, most importantly, caring hands.
Contact Clay Whittington at firstname.lastname@example.org