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Schedule alters two-a-day approach

Schedule alters two-a-day approach
Schedule alters two-a-day approach
When football begins for Corydon Central on Monday, the student athletes will already be in the classroom. At North Harrison, school begins the first day of full contact practice for football teams. Changes in the school calendar have altered the way coaches set up practice schedules. File photo by Brian Smith (click for larger version)

The tradition of hosting two-a-days in football may soon be a bygone era. For the Corydon Central football program, there is little option.
Adoption of the balanced calendar by the South Harrison Community School Corp. will see students reporting for class tomorrow (Thursday). And, the first official practice for football and all fall sports besides girls’ golf (Aug. 2) commences Monday.
Football players go through two days of practice in a non-contact setting before full contact gets underway on Aug. 7.
‘We just need to be more efficient with our time and practice,’ Corydon Central coach Darin Ward said. ‘Those teams who need more time are often those who are changing offenses or defenses or have a new coaching staff. But our kids know our system. For us, it becomes about building depth and repetition in practice.’
Previously, when school wasn’t in session during practice time, the Panthers would go through an early morning version of two-a-days. Players would report at 6:30 a.m. then get a two-hour break between practices. They would be finished by 1 p.m.
‘I think our kids appreciated that, instead of coming back at 4 or 5 in the afternoon,’ Ward said.
At North Harrison, coach Mark Williamson enters his second year at the helm of the Cougars’ program. Last season, he came on board before the summer; entering 2013, he has a more detailed approach.
The approach, however will be new because, as a teacher, he reports for work the first day of football practice then the students begin at North Harrison the first day of full contact.
‘It seems new to all of us,’ Williamson said. ‘Two-a-days seem like a rite of passage for a high school player. We’re going to do a version of it.’
Plans are in place for two weeks of players hitting the field at 3:30 after school. They’ll practice for 80 minutes, followed by a 20-minute break, then conclude with another 80-minute session.
‘I’ve never done this before, so, after three days, if this doesn’t look like a good idea, we’ll scrap it,’ Williamson said. ‘We’ll return to going to one practice after school, just like normal. I know we’ll commit to the first three days of our version of two-a-days.’
Ward said he personally believes the IHSAA should limit practice times. Due to health reasons, specifically practicing a high-intensity sport during hot weather days, Ward is among the coaches who believe regulations should be in place.
According to the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research, 35 high school football players have died of exertional heatstroke between 1995 and 2010.
‘I think two-a-days is a mentality of it must be done from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s,’ Ward said.
In Iowa, its high school athletic association has banned two-a-day football practices, along with limiting total practice time in an effort to prioritize safety of players.
Serving on an exploratory committee this off-season, Ward believes similar regulations are bound for the IHSAA schools soon.
‘It will come down the pipeline in February,’ Ward said. ‘There is the dialogue to get more heat-acclamation rules, similar to those of the NCAA.’
Among the regulations would be programs that two-a-days could not occur on consecutive days. There could be limitations on the time a team can practice, and, if coaches decide to have two practices in one day, there would be required down time for the players, likely five hours.
Corydon Central players will report before school to participate in conditioning programs such as weight lifting when the official practice season begins. Then, after school, they’ll go through a traditional practice.
‘We won’t go twice in the afternoon after school,’ Ward said. ‘Once we get pads on Wednesday, we’ll stretch our practice out from 3:45 to around 6.’
Fortunately for football and other IHSAA sports, there is plenty of freedom to practice in the summer. One moratorium week in July keeps coaches and players separated. Other than that, there is plenty of time for coaches of all sports to get work in.
‘I don’t think two-a-days are that big of a deal anymore,’ Williamson said. ‘As far as execution and getting everything in? We had a camp, got seven practices in over Memorial Day week and went to several 7-on-7s. You’re allowed to do as much football as you want in the summer.’
When it comes around for official practice, North Harrison knows the system Williamson has put in place. So when the Cougars commence, they’ll hit the ground running.
Ward echoed things will be similar in the Panthers’ camp.
‘We had a team camp and went to Salem and Jasper for 7-on-7s,’ Ward said. ‘We use those to help get us ready.’
Both coaches acknowledge there will be adjustments during the next few years.
‘We’ll all tweak over the next few years, just like when IHSAA allowed us to do football all summer,’ Williamson said. ‘Coaches will have to figure out what is too much and what is not enough. Each will tweak their schedules to make it work for their program. Nobody will get it perfect the first year.’
Ward said, ‘We’ve got our system in, and I expect it’ll be an adjustment over the next few years. We need to do summer stuff because we’ll be squeezed without the morning two-a-days. In the future, we may add summer mini-camps, maybe for two or three days at a time, to work on things.’
Williamson added the unpredictable summer weather may tinker their approach to the practice schedule.
‘If it is 95 and humid, we have to adjust,’ he said.
For student-athletes, the summer months have become a balancing act, putting in time for their respective teams.
‘With our new calendar, it’ll really put a squeeze on the kids, especially our multi-sport kids,’ Ward said. ‘When we get out of school, we’re limited to three weeks in June, the moratorium week, then three weeks in July. Some kids play AAU sports, summer baseball, then they try to get in football.’
Fall breaks figure into the football season as well. North Harrison’s will be a week long while Corydon Central’s will be two, both coming in October.
‘I’d like to think our parents are understanding enough not to plan family vacations to the Caribbean in the fall,’ Ward said. ‘So far, there have been no issues with it.’
Now that the summer workouts are in the books and new versions of two-a-days await, the teams are gearing toward the Aug. 23 opener.
‘I’m geared up and as ready to go as I ever have been,’ Williamson said.
‘We had a productive summer,’ Ward said. ‘I’d like to think the kids are hungry when we get started.’