“You’re always excited to come out here and finally get to hit someone,” Seneca Valley senior lineman Timmy Walko said. “Right now, you really can’t because you’re only in helmets, but you still get that buildup of excitement. You know that when you do get to put [the pads] on, it’s going to be full go.”
With the new timeline, Maryland football coaches must deal with the loss of up to 15 hours of practice time this preseason with multiple practice session days — long a staple of high school football — virtually eliminated.
While most coaches agree the new measures — which mirror those in place around the region and country — address a problem that has caused dozens of preventable deaths nationwide over the past decade, some have questioned how much their implementation into the current schedule could adversely affect their players and preparations for a grueling season.
“You have to get kids ready for a contact sport,” Arundel Coach Chuck Markiewicz said, “and it’s difficult if you don’t have a lot of contact.”
In May, Gov. Martin O’Malley signed a law requiring the state department of education to develop a model policy for preseason practice heat acclimation and county school boards to adopt their own plans.
A 13-person committee that included doctors, coaches, trainers and administrators produced the state’s model plan, utilizing the National Athletic Trainers Association’s guidelines almost word-for-word.
Recommendations address education of athletes and coaches, an acclimation timeline and emergency procedures. All of the Maryland counties within The Post’s coverage area used the state’s model as backbone for their local policies.
The guidelines pertain to all sports, limiting all teams to one three-hour practice during the first five days of the season and eliminating back-to-back days with “two-a-day” practices, in addition to recommending a 30-minute online education course for all coaches.
But football stands to be most effected by the decreased practice periods. Most counties had regulations in place that required teams to run their first few practices without pads, but none was as stringent as the new plan.
Full-contact practices and two-a-day sessions can begin on the sixth day, meaning most teams will have just one day with two practices this season and possibly three full-contact workouts before they suit up for their first scrimmage. They are permitted a one-hour walkthrough on single session days, but those periods can not feature any equipment, including footballs.