Sports

New WIAA amendments limit football practices

In late April, the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association held its annual meeting and discussed proposed amendments. Several passed, including a new rule about the number and type of football practices that high schools can have.

Amendment 10 changes the football practice requirement for all high schools in the state. Starting this year, teams must have a minimum of three practices in the summer without full pads and full contact before using either. A maximum of 10 practices with full pads or contact will be allowed in the offseason.

“It was really pushed for safety reasons,” said Craig Olson, assistant principal at Mercer Island High School and WIAA Executive Board member. “We’re trying to cut down on the number of hits, and then kids can be ready in the fall.”

Olson said the amendment was written in part by the Washington State Football Coaches Association.

“I think that’s why it passed,” he said. Olson said the idea behind the rule is not necessarily to limit what coaches and teams can do in the summer, but is to try and limit the number of hits to prevent concussions and other injuries to players in the offseason.

This year, the first summer practice could start on May 26, and is limited to 20 days, which must take place before July 31. Within those 20 days, three must be without full pads or full contact.

Mercer Island head coach Brett Ogata said the new rules won’t change much for the Islanders. He said they usually do about 20 practices in the summer as it is.

“It’s not really going to change anything,” he said. “We’re basically already doing it.”

The amendment reads: “The first three days of practice for each football player shall be without shoulder pads (helmets are the only protective gear allowed). Contact is not allowed during the first three days of practice for each individual player. Should a player begin turnouts any time after the first day of summer practice, that individual player may not wear shoulder pads nor be allowed to be involved in those drills or practices in which there is ‘contact’ until all required safety pads are worn. A maximum of 10 practices with full pads and full contact practices are allowed. After four full pad/contact practices, teams would be allowed to scrimmage other schools or participate in full contact team camp contests. The athletic director at each school is required to maintain the summer practice schedule.”

The proposed amendment says the pros for such an amendment are to “place some limits on the amount of contact days (including seven-on-seven) coaches have with their places during the summer.”

Olson said he feels that the Islander program is already fairly safe.

“I like to think we’re pretty safe,” he said. “We are way ahead of a lot of the curve. This will standardize it across the state.”

Ogata said his philosophy, especially in the early days of the year, are to help the team learn the game, with less focus on the hitting part.

“My whole philosophy is to get them in helmets and let them learn football,” said the coach. “The focus is on the football and where to run, etc. We don’t do full contact usually until after a week of practice.”

The amendment was proposed by Willapa Valley High School, Life Christian Academy Central Valley High School, East Valley High School and Ferndale High School.

One of the other amendments that passed will change the way schools count students in order to determine classification. Currently, schools count only students in grades 10-12 to determine which group they will compete in from 2B to 4A. The next classification counts will be done in the spring of 2014, when the count has been expanded to include freshmen. Under the current system, Mercer Island has 1,114.75 students and is 3A. Schools are considered to be part of the 3A classification if the school has between 1,086 and 1,303 students.

To read all of the amendments, visit wiaa.com.

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