Two-a-day practices, or "doubles," have long been considered a necessary evil for football teams. The grueling double sessions consisted of full-padded practices, giving players a chance to do live tackling and allowing coaches to establish the team's desired level of physicality.
However, changes in the MIAA rulebook aimed at increasing player safety have done away with the demanding double sessions of years past.
"It's different, but we've been incorporating limiting our contact over the past few years," McCann Tech coach Bob LeClair said. "I often say we're not on our schedule, so we don't want to beat ourselves up."
Teams can start doubles on the sixth day of practice. During doubles, a full padded practice must be followed by a one-hour helmet-only walkthrough with "No intense physical activity and no contact," per the MIAA rulebook. Padded practices are also limited to "No more than 60 minutes of full contact live action drills and game time simulations per athlete per day," according to the MIAA. A one-hour rest period is also required in between each session.
The first session during the third day of full contact practice can be followed by a two-hour "light contact" practice, which the MIAA defines as "a team may participate in "Air" and "Bags" drills and simulations at any point." There is a minimum two-hour rest period between each session.
Football is a violent sport, but limiting the time for players to practice proper technique while fully padded may be counterproductive when considering the overall goal of increased player safety.
"I don't like it," Taconic coach Jim Ziter said. "You have to have some kind of [full-padded] doubles.
"It's ironic they want you to practice tackling and being safe, but they don't give the time to practice it. I think we need more time. You've got to be safe, but I think there's a place for [full-padded] double sessions in football."
The double practices of old may be gone, but coaches still want to get the most out of practice while being safe.
The "thud" technique, where players make contact when tackling, but do not take the ballcarrier to the ground is a one way simulate a full contact practice the during a light contact day.
"We have a smaller team than the last year, so we've adjusted our practices," Hoosac coach Dayne Poirot said. "We do most of our things thud even when we are going live. ... It's tough because the kids don't get use to [tackling] as much, but we can simulate a lot of things without having full contact. We need kids ready to execute and have good technique."
At Hoosac, the Hurricanes also use Guardian Caps (a pad that goes over the helmet, reducing impact and shock) during practice. The team started using the gear several years ago, and while the caps may not be the coolest looking piece of equipment, Poirot said he appreciates the added protection they provide.
"Our booster club put forward the money [for the caps], because we want the kids to stay healthy and be safe," he said. "Throughout the practices and throughout the week, they get a lot less helmet-to-helmet contact. It's a lot softer and more managed. I like them and the kids like them, too."
Contact Akeem Glaspie at 413-496-6252