By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches managing editor
More and more state athletic associations are placing restrictions on the amount of time teams can spend in full-contact sessions during practice. The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) recommended as much in July of 2014 in a position paper issued by a 24-member Concussion Summit Task Force including medical doctors, athletic trainers, high school coaches and key national leaders in high school sports. Coaches have found the new rules challenging in terms of time management. Coaches now have to do more with less time. Here is how one Georgia high school football coach made it work.
- Be Sure your Staff is Organized
- Maximize Reps
- Minimize Downtime
Chris Griffin has been the coach at Flowery Branch (Ga.) for four years, the most recent being the first in which his full-contact practice time was limited by the Georgia High School Association. The new GHSA rules, which went into effect last fall, limited full contact to 45 minutes per day and 135 minutes per week in preseason and then 30 minutes per day and 90 per week in the regular season. Full-contact drills could not be conducted on three consecutive days. “At first, I panicked a little bit when I heard the new rules,” Griffin said. “The hardest part was the preseason. There’s so much time without a game, and you really want to utilize every second of the allotted contact time.”
BE SURE YOUR STAFF IS ORGANIZED BEFORE YOU BEGIN PRACTICE
With full-contact practice time limited last season, Griffin spent more time in his preparation for practice. He needed to make sure his assistant coaches were organized and ready to make the most of every second.
Griffin started each day by sending a staff-wide email with a general plan for that day’s practice. The coordinators would typically reply with suggestions for open sections in the schedule. Griffin then sent a final email to his entire staff with a minute-by-minute breakdown for each position group.
“The organization and communication is so critical,” Griffin said. “They know if we’re doing a drill exactly how it’s set up. If the coaches know where to be and the importance of each drill, the players will know what’s going on.”
Flowery Branch had 77 players on its varsity roster last season. With 135 minutes of full-contact practice time during the preseason and only 90 minutes in-season, the players at the bottom of the depth chart had fewer opportunities to get reps.
“If you have an hour of full-contact during the preseason, 30 kids are going to get most of the reps,” Griffin said. “You want the guys who are going to be playing on Friday night to get the full-contact reps. Some kids may only get three or four reps during that 60-minute block.”
Griffin said the key is to divide the coaching staff and conquer. His assistants set up live contact periods in different sections of the field so that all players could get reps.
When Flowery Branch started a full-contact period at practice, everyone was on the same page. The scoreboard clock started counting down so that the players could see how much time remained.
The coaches carried horns to alert players when to switch drills. And when the horns sounded, the players sprinted from station to station.
“Typically, we ask them to get to the next drill on a dead sprint,” Griffin said. “If it’s not your rep, get a sip of water when you can. We’ll maximize the time by making sure everyone’s hydrated beforehand so they can get as many reps as possible.”
After practice was over, Griffin tracked the exact minutes of live periods and submitted the paperwork to his athletic director for approval.
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Dan Guttenplan is FNF Coaches senior managing editor. Do you have a thought about this article you would like to share? Send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, tweet us @fnfcoaches or share it on the Coaches Chat Board.