Many folks, including me, will too often focus on the destination more than the trip. More on results than process. The end more than the means.
This is epidemic in sports, on all levels. There’s so much focus on the postseason that it overshadows the regular season.
In contrast, in educational athletics, we are supposed to hold to the principle that opportunities for teaching and learning are as plentiful, maybe more so, in regular season as in tournaments, at subvarsity levels as at varsity, during practices as during games.
This disease affects football as much as any high school sport. There’s been too much focus on the end of the season – playoffs. Postseason tournaments have been the demise of many great Thanksgiving Day high school football classics across the country. Playoffs continue to ruin rivalries and collapse conferences nationwide.
And, disturbingly, the focus on the end of the season misses what is most wrong with football, and may be most threatening to its future. It’s practice. Specifically, what’s allowed during preseason practice and then at practice throughout the season.
We can predict that, in high school football’s future, two-a-day practices will be fewer, practice hours will be shorter and activities will be different. Among proposals we will be presented (and should seriously consider) will be:
- Increasing the number of days without pads at the start of the season from three days to four or even five.
- Prohibiting two-a-day practices entirely, or at least on consecutive days.
- Limiting the number of minutes of practice on any one day.
- Restricting contact drills to a certain number of minutes each week.
If this all sounds silly or radical, remember that the NCAA and NFL are already making such changes. NFL players face contact in practice on only 14 days during a 17-week regular season. Meanwhile, many high school coaches have kids knocking heads and bruising bodies two to four days a week, all season long. Giving critics the impression that interscholastic football for teens is more brutal than the higher levels of football for grown men. Inviting interference from people who think they know better.
Actually, we know better; and we need to do better. Soon.