Football games will start a week later, practices limited on medical recommendations

by: SELF-PORTAIT - Sports Editor John BrewingtonI was watching “Remember the Titans” the other night and made note about the way preseason football camps were conducted circa 1971. If you wanted water you were a “coward.” Two- or three- or even four-a-day practices were allowed. Hard helmet-to-helmet contact was encouraged. (Concussions were called getting your bell rung.) The movie was pretty symbolic of the way it was.

There are going to be some changes in the way football (and other fall sports) are conducted in the future if proposals by the Medical Aspects of Sports Committee of the Oregon School Activities Association are approved by the Delegate Assembly.

One motion has had a first reading by the Executive Board, and will be voted on at their next meeting. The other is already headed to the assembly.

In the one proposal, football season would go back to a limit of nine regular-season games. No more endowment games and no more games before Labor Day. This would go into effect next year. The reasoning is to allow teams to spend more time practicing (before a game week) and conditioning, and to prevent teams from using the 10th game as an endowment game. It will mean fewer preseason games in general if the ninth game is to be a play-in game. It also means that league champions and others automatically qualifying for the first round of state (play-ins are not playoffs games) might only have eight games before their first state playoff game. Since the new system in 4A and 5A limits play-ins to the top 24 teams, those not qualifying for play-ins will also have just eight games. Theoretically, teams could schedule an additional game if they didn’t make the play-ins or automatically qualify, but it seems very unlikely.

The rule will be nine games, counting play-ins. Endowment games are going away.

Practices can’t start until Aug. 19 next year, and the first game can’t be played until after Sept. 3 (the Tuesday after Labor Day).

The other proposal sets very specific rules for fall practices, not only for football, but for cross country, volleyball and soccer as well, plus cheerleading and dance/drill.

It does have good intentions, trying to limit injuries and prevent heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Water breaks and “general acclimatization to hot and/or humid” conditions should be allowed for at all practices.

There are specific rules when a player can begin practice with full pads. Each player must have their first three days with no more than a helmet and shoulder pads. Contact should be limited on the fourth and fifth days.

Athletes are also limited to a single practice session for the first three days each year. Those practices can be no more that three hours, including warm-up and cool down.

Athletes are also limited to five hours of practice on any one day, and with three hour breaks between sessions. Consecutive days of multiple practices are also not allowed. Multiple practice days may not be held on consecutive days. Also, athletes must be given a day off without any practices every six days. No organized team activity is allowed.

Students can participate in a jamboree or game after four days of practice.

The same rules apply for all other school sports and activities, including winter and spring sports such as wrestling, swimming, basketball, golf, tennis, track and field, baseball, and softball.

To be honest, it’s all a little hard to assimilate. Not allowing daily doubles every day for a week or so, will be a big change and probably not liked by coaches. I suspect many will go to class room schedules for plays on days when they can’t have two-a-days. Some of the other aspects are probably just common sense.

Let them drink as much water as they want is the basic premise.

Moving the games back doesn’t bother me as much either. The traditional starting date used to always be the Friday after Labor Day. The change to before Labor Day started with jamborees, and evolved into endowments, and then basically a 10-game schedule with an endowment at the end for play-ins. It used to be nine games and then the playoffs. Originally just league champions were involved in the playoffs, then two teams from each league, then three. Just a couple of years ago with two new classes and a new “play-in” system it became everyone. Then it was limited a bit. And now they give league champions an automatic berth and limit play-ins to the top 24. It’ll probably change again if they go back to five classifications in 2014-15. That change seems almost a certainty, but no one is sure how it will be divided now.

The more things change, I guess the more they come back to being the same. However, athletes are being cared for quite a bit more than they used to be.

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