The opening week of high school football practice in Missouri has taken on a new look. It's more attractive to some than others.
By SAM MCDOWELL
The Kansas City Star
The Missouri State High School Activities Association has placed added limitations on the first five days of practice in all contact sports, citing benefits discovered through national research. Fall sports teams in Missouri began practicing on Monday.
The heaviest restrictions have been placed on football, which is scheduled to begin game action on Aug. 30. During the first two days of practice on Monday and Tuesday, players were allowed only helmets rather than full pads. Contact drills were forbidden.
Starting today through Friday players can add shoulder pads while participating in drills utilizing blocking sleds and tackling dummies. Full-contact sessions are not allowed until the sixth day of practice.
As you might guess, this new schedule — called the 16-day acclimatization period — requires some, well, acclimatization.
“It's the first time I've ever started coaches meetings before football,” Lee's Summit West coach Royce Boehm said. “It's a little weird.”
The intent, as described on the MSHAAA website, is to prevent heat- and stress-related injuries while allowing the athlete's body to adjust to “the intensity and duration of exercise and environmental conditions.” Further restrictions prevent teams from practicing more than six consecutive days or conducting two-a-days on back-to-back days.
As a result of the no-contact and no-pads requirements, teams treated Monday and Tuesday as they normally do the day before a game — heavy on the fundamentals, light on the activity.
“At first, I was really disappointed we weren't able to get in there and bang around, but it was good to review some fundamentals,” Liberty coach Chad Frigon said. “It turned out to be more productive than I thought it would be.”
Still, the new schedule means teams have only two full weeks of practice before opening the season on Aug. 30. And many schools in Missouri have scheduled jamborees for a week earlier. Liberty plans to join Blue Springs, Blue Springs South and Raytown South for a jamboree on Aug. 23 at Raytown High School.
“The biggest change is we're looking at a Saturday practice and four more days (of practice) before we play in a jamboree,” said Frigon, who added that he believed the rule change was well-intended. “That feels like it's tough to get ready for. I wonder if that's going to be enough time in pads.”
The five no-contact days follow a dead period in which schools were forbidden to practice during for an 11-day period. Missouri football teams were allowed 25 days of practice over the summer, but none after July 31.
“I like the helmets-only rule and getting acclimated to the heat,” Oak Grove coach Pat Richard said. “But 11 days off is tough. When it was a week, like last year, it wasn't that tough. But after 11 days, we looked sluggish. It hurts you mentally more than anywhere else.”
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