Talking Practice: Texas, Illinois Revise Policies

December 20, 2013

By Rob Kaminski
MHSAA benchmarks editor

Coaches and players in Texas and Illinois adapted to new football practice limitations this fall, with the Texas policy focusing on contact, and the Illinois regulation emphasizing length of preseason practices. 

Following are the main changes those states put in place heading into the 2013-14 season:

The University Interscholastic League, which governs school sports in Texas, put into writing that, “During the regular season and postseason, no football player is allowed to participate in more than ninety (90) minutes of full contact practice per week,” effective with the first day of practice this fall.

The complete policy follows:

For the purposes of the of rule, "full contact" is defined as football drills or live game simulations where "live action" occurs. Live action, as defined by USA Football, is contact at game speed where players execute full tackles at a competitive pace taking players to the ground. A team may continue to dress in full pads for practice, but may only participate in live action drills and game time simulations no more than ninety minutes per athlete per week. It is assumed that when players are in shells (shorts, shoulder pads, and helmets) no live action drills or simulations will occur. This rule is intended to limit live action drills and simulations and not the number of practices a team may participate in full pads. A team may participate in "air," "bags," "wrap," and "thud" drills and simulations at any point. These contact levels are defined below:

• Air - Players should run unopposed without bags or any opposition
• Bags - activity is executed against a bag, shield or pad to allow for a soft-contact surface, with or without the resistance of a teammate or coach standing behind the bag.
• Wrap - Drills run at full speed until contact, which is above the waist with the players remaining on their feet.
• Thud - Same as wrap but tempo is competitive with no pre-determined winner and the players are not tackling to the ground.

The rule came to the UIL Legislative Council as a recommendation from the UIL Medical Advisory Committee, a permanent advisory committee to the Legislative Council which meets twice each year to discuss and review safety policies for UIL participants. The committee, which is made up of leading medical professionals in various specialties and includes representatives from the Texas High School Coaches Association, the Texas Girls Coaches Association, and the Texas State Athletic Trainer Association, unanimously recommended this limitation in full-contact football practice.

The rule formulates into a formal policy the existing actions of the majority of coaches across Texas, and most coaches have had to make few adjustments, if any. In fact, according to a story on statesman.com, the proposal caused more of an uproar on social media than from coaches.

“It’s not going to affect us in anyway,” Vandegrift HS coach Drew Sanders said in the story. “Most good coaches were way below that 90-minute amount already. Prior to legislation we still monitored it ourselves – the only change is now we have to keep up a log more publicly.”

Illinois put standards in place for its first 14 days of football practices, known as the state’s Preseason Football Acclimatization Practice Period. At the core of the policy is a three-hour practice limit for the first five days, during which teams can also conduct a one-hour walk-through. 

Teams must observe a minimum two hours rest between the practices and walk-throughs. Players may wear helmets only on the first two days, then helmets and shoulder pads for the next three. From days seven through 14 of the acclimatization period, schools may practice for a maximum of five hours per day, as long as that day is followed by a three-hour day, or an off day. During the five-hour days, no session can last more than three hours and must include a two-hour break between practices. Full pads may be worn for the final seven dates leading up to the first contest.

“This policy was the result of a collaborative effort between the IHSA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee and the Football Advisory Committee,” said SMAC committee member and University of Illinois Associate Professor of Orthopedic Surgery Dr. Preston M. Wolin. “The guidelines are based on the most recent scientific evidence, as well as the expertise of the coaches who will help implement them. Both committees believe the guidelines represent a significant positive contribution to the health of our athletes.”

“This new policy undoubtedly changes the way we, as coaches, approach preseason practice,” said Metamora HS coach Pat Ryan, who is a member of the FAC and a past President of the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association. “Coaches have to get more creative with when and how they schedule practices, as well what they do with their time. The proposals were strongly supported by both committees. It is a crucial final step to the process of being able to effectively prepare our teams in a safe manner. Change is always difficult, but the game is changing and we need to adapt to continue to put the safety of our players first.”

The IHSA offered multiple interactive online webinar meetings for high school coaches leading up to the start of practice where questions were answered, along with further clarifications on the policy and the science behind it.

“I think most coaches understood that changes were on the horizon,” said IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman. “We wanted to be in a position to give our coaches as much information as possible to make sure they are comfortable with the new policy. Their input will be critical moving forward as we develop educational materials, like a best practices presentation. I commend our committees on a policy that is supported by medical experts, football coaches and school administrators.”

Lawrence's Schuman Sets Example for Well-Rounded Success

By Pam Shebest
Special for MHSAA.com

December 14, 2022

LAWRENCE — If redshirting was a thing in high school, at least two coaches at Lawrence would stick that label on senior John Schuman.

Southwest Corridor“We don’t want to lose this kid ever,” said Derek Gribler, the Tigers’ first-year varsity football and baseball coach.

“If we could put a red shirt on this kid every year, we would.”

Athletic director John Guillean, who also coaches varsity basketball, agreed.

“He is what we strive to have all our student-athletes achieve: high GPAs, multi-sport athletes, good, overall well-rounded human beings,” Guillean said.

Schuman has participated in five of the seven boys sports Lawrence sponsors.

As a freshman and sophomore, Schuman played football, wrestled, ran track and played baseball.

He had wrestled since he was 4, and went from the 119-pound weight class as a freshman to 145 the following year. That sophomore season he qualified for his Individual Regional. But as a junior, he traded wrestling for basketball.

“My older brother wrestled at Lawrence, so I would come to practices,” he said. “I quit for a couple years (in middle school) because I liked basketball, too. It was hard to do both. Obviously, in high school, I still struggled with choosing,” he added, laughing.

John GuilleanGuillean is thrilled Schuman made the switch.

“He’s 6-(foot-)4, he’s super athletic, defensively he’s a hawk, offensively he can put the ball in the bucket. But really, aside from his skills, just that positive attitude and that positive outlook, not just in a game, but in life in general, is invaluable,” the coach said.

Last season, Schuman earned honorable mention all-league honors in the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph Conference, averaging 9.1 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.

Lawrence left the BCS for the Southwest 10 Conference this year, joining Bangor, Bloomingdale, Hartford, Decatur, Comstock, Marcellus, Mendon, Centreville, White Pigeon and Cassopolis. Schuman and senior Tim Coombs will co-captain the Tigers, with Guillean rotating in a third captain.

At a school of fewer than 200 students, Schuman will help lead a varsity team with just nine – joined by seniors Andy Bowen and Gabe Gonzalez, juniors Christian Smith, Noel Saldana, Ben McCaw and Zander Payment, and sophomore Jose Hernandez, who will see time with the junior varsity as well using the fifth-quarter rule.

“I attribute a lot of (last year’s successful transition) to my coach, helping me get ready because it wasn’t so pretty,” the senior said. “But we got into it, got going, and my teammates helped me out a lot.”

Great anticipation

Gribler is one coach already looking ahead to spring sports after seeing what Schuman did during football season.

In spite of missing 2½ games with an injury, the wide receiver caught 50 receptions for 870 yards and 11 touchdowns.

“I just like the ability to run free, get to hit people, let out some anger,” Schuman laughed.

Derek GriblerGribler said the senior is “an insane athlete.

“On top of his athletic ability, how smart he is in the classroom (3.88 GPA), he helped mold the culture we wanted this year for football. He got our underclassmen the way we wanted them. He was a big asset in many ways.”

Schuman earned all-conference honors for his on-field performance in football as well.

“I would say that my main sport is football,” the senior said. “That’s the one I like the most, spend the most time on.”

In the spring, Schuman competed in both track and baseball, earning all-conference honors in both.

“Doing both is tough,” he said. “I have to say my coaches make it a lot easier for me. They help me a lot and give me the ability to do both, so I really appreciate that.

“Throughout the week you’re traveling every day, it seems like. Baseball twice a week and track, but it’s worth it.”

Schuman’s commitment is so strong that he made a special effort not to let his teammates down last spring.

“He qualified for state in the long jump and did his jumps up in Grand Rapids, then he drove all the way to Kalamazoo to play in the District baseball game,” Guillean said. “That speaks volumes about who this kid is. He did his jumps at 9 a.m. (but did not advance) and made it back to Kalamazoo for a 12:15 game.”

Big shoes to fill

As the youngest of four children of Mark and Gretchen Schuman, the senior was following a family tradition in sports.

Oldest brother Matthew played football, basketball and baseball as well as competed in pole vault and wrestling.

Middle bother Christopher competed in football, wrestling and baseball.

Sister Stephanie played basketball, volleyball and softball.

“I like to say they blazed a pretty good trail for me at this high school,” Schuman said.

As for feeling pressure to live up to his siblings, “I used to when I was younger, but now I feel like I’ve made my own way and done enough things to be proud of that I’m happy with it.”

His own way led him to achieve something none of the others did.

He was named the Tigers’ Male Athlete of the Year, just the third junior to earn the boys honor over the last 25 years.

“I was very honored to win that as a junior,” Schuman said. “There were good athletes in the grade above me. I guess hard work pays off.”

Guillean said while Schuman is “darn good at every sport here,” an athlete does not have to be a “top dog” in every sport.

“Learn how to take a back seat,” he said. “Learn how to be a role player. That will make you a better teammate and a well-rounded human being.

“Johnny has that work ethic, in the classroom, on the field, on the court, on the track. It doesn’t go unnoticed and, obviously, he’s reaping the benefits now.”

Pam ShebestPam Shebest served as a sportswriter at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1985-2009 after 11 years part-time with the Gazette while teaching French and English at White Pigeon High School. She can be reached at pamkzoo@aol.com with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Lawrence’s John Schuman has participated in five varsity sports during his first 3½ years of high school. (Middle) Lawrence athletic director John Guillean. (Below) Lawrence football and baseball coach Derek Gribler. (Action photos courtesy of John Schuman; head shots by Pam Shebest.)