Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - EDITORIAL PAGE -

THOSE of us of a cer­tain age will re­mem­ber when foot­ball coaches put our lives in dan­ger to “toughen” us up just be­fore school started in Au­gust. It was a man’s world, or so the coaches said. So they’d with­hold wa­ter, some­times hand­ing out salt pills be­fore prac­tice. (That “sub­sti­tute” has been de­bunked for decades.) Some­times the coaches would make the kids run at the end of prac­tice— wind sprints, gassers, what­ever you called it—un­til some of the kids threw up, or worse. Oh yes, and prac­tices were held twice a day.

No won­der kids were fall­ing out all over. And some­times one of them would make the pa­per. Trag­i­cally.

The NCAA, as part of its ef­fort to in­crease safety for col­lege ath­letes, has stopped teams from hold­ing mul­ti­ple prac­tices “with con­tact” in a sin­gle day. Which is why so many col­leges (such as the UofA in Fayet­teville) have moved up train­ing camp into July. The kids have to be taught for­ma­tions and au­di­bles, and with­out two-a-days with con­tact, the prac­tices have to be stretched out.

Some­thing tells us this is only for the good. Some­thing like the im­age of the poor free safety strug­gling to keep it to­gether un­der that shade tree all those sum­mers ago.

Ac­cord­ing to the NCAA, which keeps up with th­ese things, nearly 60 per­cent of foot­ball prac­tice concussions hap­pen be­fore the sea­son even starts. Which makes sense, in the old-school way: Coaches were try­ing to find the mean­est, nas­ti­est, hard­est-hit­ting kids on the field, so let them go at it full speed be­fore the sched­ule kicks in. Be­sides, you don’t want your starters hurt the week be­fore the Bama game.

Col­lege foot­ball teams can still hold prac­tice twice a day, but one of them has to be a walk-through. And if they’re hon­est, mod­ern coaches will tell you that’s where the real learn­ing oc­curs. It’s hard to re­mem­ber your as­sign­ment on a dou­ble-Z wing fly route 55 if your bell is ring­ing.

“It just makes all the sense in the world,” says a coach of some note, Jim Har­baugh of Michi­gan.

“I don’t think you’re go­ing to have the num­ber of in­juries” with this new rule. says a coach with a rec­og­niz­able last name in Arkansas, Skip Holtz of Louisiana Tech.

Be­sides, train­ing camps are no longer used to get play­ers into shape af­ter sit­ting on the couch since Fe­bru­ary. Col­lege ath­letes th­ese days train all year.

One-a-days make sense. Here’s hop­ing every level of foot­ball fol­lows this lead.

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