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  • Writer's pictureTerry O'Neil

NC Coaches Love New Regulations

Last July, minutes before a Practice Like Pros presentation inGreensboro, NC,to theBoard of Directorsof theNorth Carolina Football Coaches Association, NCFCA Executive Director Daniel Barrow Sr.took PLP founder Terry O'Neilaside for a private conversation.

"You know, we have a saying here in the South," saidBarrow.

"What's that?" askedO'Neil.

"Don't tell me how to plant the corn!"

"In other words, don't lecture me, don't dictate to me."

"Correct," saidBarrow. "Just educate, educate, educate and trust that these coaches will come to the right conclusion."

Over the next two hours, that's exactly what happened. NCFCAleaders emerged from that meeting determined to collaborate with theNorth Carolina High School Athletic Association (NCHSAA)on thetightest practice contact limits in the history of the game at any level of the game.Since the announcement two weeks ago, coaches have been reacting.  Among them:

South View High Coach Rodney Brewingtonsaid, "It's a win-win for everyone."

"I'm pretty excited about it," said first-yearCoach Andy KarcherofE.E. Smith High. 

The new regulations were drafted in a late January meeting between theNCFCAand a sub-committee of theNCHSAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC).  Important to the coaches was keeping the practice format known as thud (or "bump" inNorth Carolina) in which players engage above the waist without taking each other to the ground.

The two sides attacked this question by screening video of high school, college andNFLpractice, after which they re-affirmed theNCHSAA'sposition that thud/bump is not full contact and should not be time-limited in pre-season and regular season.  Then they went the next step:  Coaches argued that brief periods of thud/bump in spring practice (previously non-contact) would actually promote safety by teaching players to protect themselves.  The medical experts agreed.

"To be able to bump in the spring is really going to help the kids, especially the newer ones," saidCoach Bruce McClellandofTerry Sanford High. "It will help them mature and learn the game a lot quicker."

AddedPine Forest Coach Bill Sochovka,"Kids in general, the more you can see what their techniqueisn't,the quicker you can fix it."

Several coaches drew a connection between contact reduction and shrinking rosters. North Carolinahigh school football lost a staggering 25.6% participation between 2013 and 2018, the worst statistic in the nation during that period.

"If you want to see kids come back to our sport, we have to let parents know that we care and show kids that they're more than a piece on a chessboard," said Coach Brian RandolphofJack Britt High. "Even some of the more hardcore coaches have backed off.  We always have to put the health and well being of the kids first."

O'Neilsummarized, "TheseNorth Carolinacoaches are a smart bunch.  They've heard all the empty slogans: 'the game is under attack, the game has never been safer.'  They realize that high school football will regenerate itself only with action -- demonstrating to parents with new regulations that every needless risk is being eliminated."

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