PLP Finds New Advocate in Illinois
Practice Like Pros found a new advocate Friday during presentations at the Glazier/Chicago Clinic in the Chicago/Oak Brook Hills Resort and Conference Center, Oak Brook, IL. Following the morning session, Coach Jeffrey Vlk of Buffalo Grove High School (northwest Chicago suburb) approached PLP founder Terry O'Neil with a remarkable story. Buffalo Grove qualified for state playoffs in both 2017 and 2018, but failed to advance due to a staggering list of injuries. Over two seasons, the team sustained:
4 ACL tears,
3 shoulder labrum tears,
fractures of the shoulder, hip,
kneecap and ankle.
The promising 2018 team lost seven starters to injury by mid-season. Entering 2019, Coach Vlk said, "The injuries were so depressing, we knew we had to do something different. Not only were we replacing 18 of 22 starters, we had junior and senior classes that were nowhere near as talented as the two classes before." So he turned to the Practice Like Pros model, drastically reducing contact. "I was very torn on this at first," said Vlk, "because the old-school football coach in me says that we need to hit, hit, hit. But the science behind it says different." Vlk was unsure how his players would react to a pre-season heavy on weight training, conditioning and technique drills rather than contact. But on the eve of the opener, one of his linemen said to him, "Coach, I feel so ready to play. My neck doesn't hurt, my shoulders don't hurt." Another difference Vlk noticed was the frequent attendance of his athletic trainer at practice. Nobody was in her training room for treatment. In contrast to prior years, the squad's injury tally was one concussion (suffered in a game), one sprained ankle, one sprained knee and one bruised shoulder. The 2019 Bison was competitive in every game. Their 4-5 record was a huge over-achievement compared to the highly capable 2017-18 teams. And their coach was now converted. He said, "I will never go back to the old-school way." As they parted Friday in Oak Brook, Vlk asked O'Neil what he could do to help spread the message. O'Neil immediately invited Vlk to share the stage with himself and Dartmouth Coach Buddy Teevens in a 90-minute presentation to the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association (IHSFCA) Clinic, March 27 in Champaign. Vlk accepted the opportunity to share his experience with coaches statewide. He said, "I'm a believer in this philosophy and want to do what I can to make the game safer." Practice Like Pros' campaign to reduce contact and increase participation in Illinois, featuring six appearances this off-season, is sponsored by the rock band Chicago.