JEWELL: Year-round Practices Unnecessary

It passed. The AIA board voted, overwhelmingly, to allow unlimited off-season practices in all sports. This literally just passed and I want to be able to do some research and read the rules further, but my first reaction is…Why?

I might ramble in this article because a lot of thoughts are racing in my head and I will lean on football because that is the sport I know, so I apologize. But why do sports at the high school level need unlimited year-round practices? Then I think, “Is it different than what is going on currently?” I mean, some schools have year-round football hour. All Spring and Summer there are passing league tournaments, big man challenges, college camps and summer camps. So don’t we pretty much already have year-round practice?

Many have argued that this new rule will hurt other sports and more kids will focus on just one sport. I am a big fan of multi-sport athletes and would hate to see that happen. To be honest, I don’t see it as an issue. Football players will continue to do play basketball in the Winter and baseball in the spring. I have noticed less kids participating in wrestling and track, but that is for another article. If practices are held year-round, that may actually get the kids that don’t participate in winter/spring sports active. But then on the other side of the coin, will it stop some kids that are on the fence about coming out for football in the first place? Commitment is something high school kids struggle with already, if you tell them they need to commit to year-round practice to play football, they might just decide not to come out in the first place.

Will kids get hurt? No. Not at any higher rate. Plus, they still can’t put pads on. Now, they may get burned out. Separate issue.

We tend to put our focus on the kids, as we should, but there are other people involved: coaches. It is getting harder and harder to find quality coaches. They put in a ton of time for very little pay. They spend time away from their own kids to coach someone else’s. It is by choice, of course, but it is also why some coaches have stepped away. In my coaching career, I have seen many great coaches step away for reasons including better paying jobs, having children, wife wants them at home more, tired of parents, and so on. Now we will have unlimited year-round contact, will they get paid more? Nope. We all know school districts can’t afford it. Will this extra time commitment force more good coaches out of the profession?

Some have talked about this rule being put in place to stop all of the club teams and trainers from having their hands on the high school athlete. In my opinion, it won’t change. Parents are still going to take their kids to personal trainers. Kids will still play AAU basketball.

And then lastly I think, will anything change at all? Many coaches don’t want year-round practice. They want kids to have a break, they themselves want a break, they can’t get enough coaches to participate, or they coach another sport.

Let’s see how all of this plays out but I am leaning towards the latter, that not much will change from how the landscape currently looks.