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Area football teams have no issues with new practice rules

August 19, 2013 - Andy Heintz
The Iowa High School Athletic Association took a big step toward player safety this past year when it announced that football programs around the state were no longer permitted to hold two-a-day practices.

Two-a-day practices had been a staple of Iowa high school football for as long as I can remember and were very popular when I played back in the 1990s. But heat-related injuries and even some deaths prompted the association to be proactive with its approach.

So moving forward, teams are only allowed to practice up to 3 hours per day on the field. That time does not account for weight training and film study.

While I have read about some programs who are not happy with the rules, the coaches I talked to in our area seem to be completely OK with new format.

Marshalltown coach Aaron Shipley, in fact, has taken the time limit to a whole new extreme.

In his first year at the helm, Shipley has decided to go away from conditioning at the end of practice. Instead, the Bobcats practice intensely for no more than 1 hour and 40 minutes. The conditioning they get takes place during that time.

"Practice tempo is intense," Shipley said. "We want to run one play run every 15 seconds and sprint everywhere we go. It’s constant conditioning."

Marshalltown's practice are fast and efficient but Shipley feels -- so far anyway -- that more kids will want to play football if they know they don't have to practice in the heat for three hours at a time. Most of that three hours is standing around waiting to get your repetitions in anyway.

"We have a very efficient practice schedule," Shipley said. "The more repetitions we do, the better we'll get. We can get more out of the high-intensity practices that don’t last three hours then we will with 3 hour practices that involve a lot of standing around. That is a strategic effort we are trying to do to recruit and retain players throughout the season."

Long-time West Marshall coach Ken Winkler said he didn't feel like he enjoy the new rules at first, but after practicing for a a week this season, he has actually come to enjoy it. He said the shorter practices are better for the kids and the older coaches anyway.

"I like it. I probably wouldn’t have told you that when they first us about it," Winkler said. "We actually aren’t doing much different than we used to do. I don’t see anything wrong with it. I know there are a lot of people that don’t feel that way. If you practice three hours a day, that should be enough. I don't know what more you want."

East Marshall coach Patrick Farley said the new rule has been a challenge for the Mustangs in Le Grand. However, the shorter practices has forced them to be more efficient with their workouts. And when the practices are good, they are usually more intense.

AGWSR coach Skip Ekhardt feels the same way Winkler feels.

In fact, the programs at West Marshall, East Marshall, AGWSR and North Tama really aren't doing anything different than they did in previous seasons.

Winkler said the Trojans used to practice for two hours and then take a break and then go for two more hours. The new rules just force them to shorten the length of each practice by 30 minutes.

Eckhardt said the new rules haven't affected the Cougars one bit. They now just have two 1 hour and 30 minute practices to compensate for the new three-hour rule.

From the sounds of it, the area coaches now have to work a little harder to get things accomplished in those shorter windows, but it doesn't seem to be affecting the overall product on the field.

If that helps bring safety to the student-athletes, and even allows for more student-athletes to play football, then I am all for it.


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