Before I bore you all to death with the ins and outs of a newly proposed WIAA rule known as Amendment 10 I want to catch your attention with something.
High School football is on its way out.
Anyone paying attention knows this and while the reasons are complex please understand me. If something does not change Friday Night Lights the way we know and cherish them are going to go out.
There are many reasons I could give for this and it might take a decade or two for it to take its full course. But the last bastion of the Sport of Football that has not become completely ruined by money is starting to buckle at the knees and it is taking serious body blows.
Do you all understand the seriousness of the increase of Traumatic Brain Injuries in the sport?
Are you paying attention to the rising numbers of kids being hospitalized and hurt for life every year while pursuing the game? And are you aware of the over 5,000 NFL Legends who are now in on the law suits seeking damages against their employer for abusing them and trading Billions in profits for their lives?
Well it is happening and there is litigation and law suit after lawsuit stacking up in virtually every State in the Nation. As we write this two very very significant law suits are moving through the Washington Courts that involve two of Washington’s own; Andrew Swank (RIP) and Matthew Newman. Both of them were WIAA member school athletes severely injured and killed in 2009 while playing the game.
Football is the culprit.
In the sense that we have all allowed the sport to become year around and not raised our hands and said “NO” we are culprits too. Football was never year around. Why? Because it was always believed that it was too dangerous of a sport to play for more then a few months let alone a whole year.
Just like High School Basketball, which is now ruined as a result of AAU club teams in the eyes of many, football and it’s players are being courted by profit seeking groups to make a year around commitment. Youth kids all over the country are playing full contact year around at a time in their lives where they are most at risk of permanent trauma.
As a result of 7 on 7 Leagues, run by private unregulated groups, football has found its year around AAU.
Leagues and games are run weekly and if you go to a tournament you will see the boys are not playing flag. This is full contact action a great deal of the time. People with no one to hold them accountable and no State agency or school body to oversee them are in a position to abuse the privilege to help the kids. Some do a great job while others line their pockets and fail to provide even so much as a first aid kit.
What does this all have to do with Amendment 10?
WIAA High School Amendment 10, AKA “High School Football Practice Requirements” would put a limit on the number of days a team can practice between the end of the Spring sports (Championships) which is apx. May 28th and July 31. The Limit would be set to 10 padded practices and to a limit of 20 days of football activity under the supervision of the high school staff.
This limitation would include any 7 on 7 camps and Team Football camps which would count into the 20 days.
“We will be able to have weight room and conditioning in addition to the 20 days of football related activities,” said Lakewood High Coach Dan Teeter. ”As it stands now we have had no limitations on how much contact we can have and we are one of the only States in the country that does not have limits.”
Why do we need limits?
What drove Teeter and Coaches like Dave Miller from Lakes to get behind this amendment?
“We are trying to protect the kids. The #1 driving force behind this amendment for many of us is to limit the exposure to contact and protect the health of our kids,” said Teeter citing concussions and traumatic brain injuries as a primary concern he has as he looks at the game overall. ”Protecting the athletes Statewide with clear parameters on this matter was what started the discussion.”
Limiting contact to protect the health of the kids. YES!
This is a great Coach who gets it. Most coaches get it. And the reason we have to do this now more then ever is the fact that we now know Football is hurting kids between the ears. When kids are hurt in high school or youth football that carries on for a lifetime. They, in many cases, will never be the same.
The sirens call of Junior Seau pulling the trigger last year was heard louder then any before. We have to stop doing things the way we have been doing them. His death is 100% confirmed to be an extension of the CTE, pain, suicidal tendencies, and dementia he was suffering from. All caused by football.
Good Coaches love their players like their own kids. And a good parent would never stand by and watch their children be put in harms way if it could be stopped.
If a Coach believes I am wrong I accept that. But I have the NFL, the Center For Disease Control, USA Football, the NFHS, Boston Medical University, BIRI, The Sports Legacy Institute, and hundreds of other official groups and schools behind me. So the proponents of Amendment 10!
“Since the #1 goal was to limit the amount of contact the off shoot discussion that grew from that was to limit the number of days of Football related activity and bring ourselves on line with other States. We have some Coaches that lobbied for 12 days of football related activity at a maximum. Others wanted 25 days. 20 days was a consensus more or less,” said Teeter.
Some of the Coaches question Amendment 10 as it is proposed and seem to feel that its is the conservative opinion of a few schools and coaches. Those doubters are the guys who might want to go hard a good portion of the open period and, having done so in past, it is easy to see why they feel they may be giving something up. But we have to remember this is a game and unfortunately the standards that are considered acceptable now have been the result of a lot of funerals and crippled kids.
Teeter said he thinks 20 days is about right.
They Lakewood Cougars plan to start Spring practice May 28th with about 5 days of conditioning and then working their way into pads. That will be followed by about 5 or 6 days of contact. His Cougars will then have a week off to finish school and come back for 4 days in pads at a Team Camp. That eats up about 8 days of Contact and about 16 days of his teams 20 days under the proposed rule.
“That leaves us 1 day for our annual passing league tournament. Then we have 2-3 days left to do a helmets only practice or 7 on 7 practice or event if we want. It will be about what we have been doing in the past.”
When the 20 days is up the guys will go into the weight room every day and work on Speed and Agility and conditioning.
Questions will abound-
Many questions will arise out of this proposed rule. For instance can a school have a separate 20 days schedule for Freshmen, JV, and Varsity kids and spread it our across the May 28 to August 1 period? How many days of the 20 must a school dedicate before the kids have their first day of contact? Many feel it is 3 days and other say it is 10. And can kids do a walk through with a Coach there? What if there are pads and a football on the field and someone claims it was a “Football Related” activity outside the 20 days? Who is keeping track? And what will happen to those that abuse the rules?
All legitimate questions that Washington’s neighbor to the South, Oregon, and the OSAA have had to deal with. Oregon has a similar rule as the proposal. Things in Oregon work pretty darn well and the model they have is a good one.
Would Teeter like to see standards that we can all agree on Nationwide?
“Yes. That would be great and maybe we can get there sooner then later,” he added.
The NFL for instance, by contract with the NFL Players Association, only allows a total of 12 Days of Contact all season. One day a week more or less. Did you read that? 12 days. All Season.
Many coaches get the concept that “If the NFL does it this way we should do it this way”. Nothing shocking about that.
In Texas, the cradle of hard-nosed blood and guts Friday Night Lights, Senator Eddie Luccio III has introduced a bill limiting High School Football in Texas to 1 day of contact as week. And it could pass and it should pass.
Lucio was driven by the Purdue Football Study that proved using sophisticated sensors that Football players lost intelligence during the football season last year. And they became dumber in direct correlation to the number of blows they took. At the end of the study this PHD scientists had to conclude that Football was making the Boilmaker student athletes dumber.
You think Amendment 10 is controversial? Try getting folks in the NW to agree to that rule.
What is Wrong With Amendment 10?
In passing Amendment 10 the WIAA and the Washington High School Football community is simply joining the crowd. It makes great sense. It is time for Washington, which led the entire national concussion issue forward with the Zacahary Lysted Law, to take the next step and close the circle on this open period we have had.
Pass the Amendment Coaches. Please. It will put you on the right side of safety, best practices, and on the side of your kids safety. The only side we know your all on anyway.
BUT…. Here is the Unintended Consequence.
The Amendment binds Washington Schools and their Coaches and staff to not host “football related activities” outside the 20 day period.
But it leaves wide open the fields and equipment and the kids to hook up with Private Coaches and camps and in essence be exposed to contact and blows anyway. And do any of you think honestly that this will not happen? It has and will happen all Summer just as it has been happening all Winter and Spring.
If the WIAA and the Coaches are serious about this, and I believe they all are, let’s be adult enough to realize that some schools and coaches are going to allow and or orchestrate the opportunities for their kids to have activities run by Private groups. That means potential contact and thus the intent of this very worthy amendment is gutted by non-school related people.
“We get to handle the kids in the off season. That is out time,” said a private 7 on 7 Coach we interviewed by phone last year. ”The High School guys get them during the season. Right now I am looking out for them.”
This is the face of the 7 On 7 – AAU- Street Agent Element. The guy has a team of All Star kids (or so he says) who pay him and his staff to travel around the West competing in privately run non-padded full contact tournaments. The very place we need our High School Coaches to be protecting our kids (their kids) we are telling them they can not be.
These are the guys that will move in and have no issues getting field space given to them to run their sideshow. It is a Money Grab, a power grab, and it is bad for High School football. This is a group of profit seeking, non-regulated often criminal infested realm of private 7 on 7 sponsored teams.
These so called “Coaches” and sponsors are waiting for the day they can pry the regions best kids away from their school all together and travel the Nation running the Cash registers all the way. If High School football ended today for all of us and the Friday Night Lights crowd they will not even miss a step. Rather they will cheer as they take “their boys” off to handle them.
Do not believe me?
Witness IMG Madden Football Academy and their new Private all star football high school. This is one of many such schools planned to be open. They will play 7-7 in the off season and train all year and travel in luxury to play High Schools that agree to play them. It is the 100% basketball equivalent of Findley Prep or Oak Hill Academy.
COACHES STAND UP AND FIX THE PROBLEM
In the space between the 20 allowed days and the start of Doubles in Washington the kids will be exposed to harm and they and their parents will shell out hundreds of dollars potentially to pay for them to attend events that their coaches would have been able to provide more safely and for almost no cost.
TO THE WIAA and Washington Coaches Association; As an adjunct or addition to the Amendment 10 there needs to be a restriction on the use of the public schools facilities . If they are not to be used for “football related activities” by the school staff then they should not be used by anyone. If you do not fix this you are just exposing the kids to Contact by unsanctioned people who are not invested into the kids future, well being, and best interest. I am suggesting that the moratorium or restriction you are seeking is a very worthy thing. Do not gut the ability of the Amendment to protect kids by saying you can not control the private sector. That is a false perception!
COACHES–DO NOT SLEEP WITH THE RATTLE SNAKES- If you let Private 7 on 7 Groups use your facilities you are driving a nail into the Friday Night Coffin that is being built for you and your boys. DENY ANYONE ACCESS TO YOUR SCHOOL if they are running any football event that you yourself can not run.
RESTRICT YOUR KIDS FROM ATTENDING EVENTS- Coaches follow the lead of Chris Merrit in Florida. A Head Coach who has lived this 7 on 7 and Combine nightmare and seen the worst of this. He has told his kids if they want to play for him they will not go to any private 7 on 7 events or combines that he has not signed off on. And you know what? It works. Talk with your kids and ask them to commit to talking about their intentions and be honest about what they are doing and how you can help them decide what is hype and what is safe and good.
Chris Merritt On 7-on-7 Football by ESPN
TO YOU PRIVATE COACHES AND CAMPS- There are plenty of great private skill coaches who can assist kids and their parents to become better football players. But they need to provide that in their own private facilities, with their own insurance, and truly should not be allowed to use school facilities during times that the schools can not.
I am an advocate of these private groups being able to approach the school districts and make their best case for using the fields for their legitimate camps.
But if we are all on the same team (WHICH AS I POINTED OUT ABOVE WE ARE NOT) then we can all play by the same rules. If Amendment 10 is a good move, and I believe it is, then the many great friends I have made in the private camp and training sector can run their events during these open periods that the schools establish or something along those lines. And if a camp is to be held during the new proposed restricted period out your best foot forward and get 100% agreement on everything your doing up front.
I want to challenge all of you private trainers and coaches to always put yourself in the position to be the guy to set the highest standards.
- Provide a trainer and or doctor at your events.
- Provide a criminal background check.
- Offer campers at your events additional concussion insurance.
- Sign a Code of Ethics with the Coaches and School districts
- Commit yourself in writing not to ask the kids to pay for recruiting services
- Always keep your focus on the boys of Fall and make the kids and their team #1 priority.
- If your not doing those things then your a part of the problem and not the solutions. You know who you are. And offer revenue to the schools when you benefit from using their wonderful facilities.
What Would I Do?
I would vote to pass Amendment 10.
I would then immediately create a Task Force to tackle this private issue and begin to process of registering and licensing every private coach, camp director, and 7 on 7 team wanting to establish a business in the State of Washington. I would bind them to an agency agreement, require background checks, require first aid and CPR training and concussion certification, require them to sign a performance contract and agree on standards of conduct, and work out a stringent code of ethics that would forbid them from acting as a “street agent” and trying to manipulate where kids play high school or college football.
They would all advertise their fees and rates upfront.
The agreement or contract between these vendors and the State of Washington and it’s people (Coaches and athletes especially) would be to always put their interests behind the best interest of the kids. Many of them we deem legitimate have looked at these ideas and said “Yes I will” to us. So we know it can be done.
And the Private Skill Coaches and Trainers have a huge role in the formula to keep High School Football vibrant. We are not saying we do not respect the heck out of what many of them have done and are doing. But if Coaches of our teams are handcuffed in many ways by rules so too must these folks.
Ultimately I believe the public school coaches should be allowed to do what they feel is best with their kids within the confines of some Nationally agreed upon rules regarding not only the period that Amendment 10 is trying govern but the whole season. Trying to keep coaches from being able to be with their High School players at all during the off season needs to change because the Genie is out of the bottle and the current rule of no involvement in the Winter / Spring is not working as the Private sector as so aptly shown.
Letting a Football Coach meet with his guys and some other schools once a week would not be the end of the world. Again limit contact drills but let them work on some things and maybe, just maybe, football will not go the way of basketball.
But guys that is just what I would do. And what do I know.
If your concerned about these issues and others consider joining the Northwest Football Alliance. That is something a group of us have been discussing the past 2 years and by talking through this we can figure it out the best way for the kids.
Good luck to Amendment 10 and here is to hoping we figure all this out and save ourselves and our kids the last best night in the world.