UIL Contact Rule Misses Mark

The UIL medical board made waves recently by unanimously recommending limiting high school football full-contact periods to just 90 minutes per week during the season.

It's early. And many key discussions, and more information, will need to be gleaned before anybody can form a truly accurate opinion. In fact, the main reaction at this point should be one of puzzlement.

Of course, there's the question of needing to define "full contact." Is it any practice where coaches put players into full pads, rather than shells? Will coaches be able to use full pads, but only go "thud", essentially three-quarter speed without taking ball-carriers to the ground. And, even outside of tackling, how do you go about defining full contact for players like linemen?

And finally, a question that I haven't seen asked: is this the same for all players, freshman through varsity? High school is a level that players often enter without a full working knowledge of fundamentals. And while the varsity coach might not need to engage his players as much in such fundamental work, a freshman coach might need to push those tackling drills a little bit harder.

There are some who will argue that this isn't a major change, and that most coaches — they'd be talking about varsity coaches — don't use full-contact periods much longer than 90 minutes anyway. But my response to that would be: isn't every team different? And what works for Coach A at, say, Cedar Hill might not be the same as what would work for Coach B at Whitewright.

What happens when a coach deems his team to be lacking in tackling fundamentals? Will he be able to spend that extra needed time with his squad polishing up a tactic that would not just improve his team but also his players' safety?

Others point to the fact that colleges have contact limits. But we're not talking about college football players. With limited exceptions, college football players are players who have played the game of football before, typically as a high level. Many high schoolers played the game as middle schoolers, hardly the same level of competition. And others are picking up the game for the first time. A need to practice tackling and hitting, again, in the most controlled situation possible, is a must.

At this point, there are more questions than answers. But I think that two truths stand out. First, the UIL medical board's heart is certainly in the right place — everyone wants to practice safety for kids. But unfortunately the second truth is that this measure, designed to increase said safety, could have the opposite effect.

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