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Editorial: Hoosier football coaches putting player safety 1st

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It is both refreshing and rewarding to note the leadership role coaches of high school sports in Indiana are taking in trying to scale back the demanding practices and workouts that have come to be seen as necessary to producing winning teams.

It is even more rewarding that local coaches are in the forefront of this effort.

The Indiana Football Coaches Association is proposing the Indiana High School Athletic Association put in place regulations that would limit what coaches will be able to ask players to do. The proposed rule changes could limit the number of times that a coach can work with his players in the summer when they are wearing shoulder pads and helmets.

Among the proponents of these rules changes are Darrin Fisher of Whiteland Community High School, the association’s first vice president; and Columbus East football coach Bob Gaddis, who is the assistant executive director.

That the measures are being proposed by football coaches — rather than outside organizations — lends weight to the concept. The coaches are acknowledging that some practices can actually endanger the health of players, especially when they practice in full gear under oppressive heat conditions.

The stance taken by the state coaches is counter to a “win at all costs” philosophy that sadly has become identified with a number of successful football programs elsewhere in the country.

In some respects, it could put schools that are mindful of the health of their student athletes at a disadvantage when their programs are compared with those in football-crazy states, such as Florida and Texas, where working out in dangerous conditions is sometimes equated with manhood or “toughing it out.”

The optimum situation would be that a national consensus develop so that such limitations would be universal in application. To allow some states exceptions to these standards would penalize both players and coaches in states that do adopt the rules. In a very real sense, the potential for college scholarships for the players and salaries for the coaches is dictated by the strength of the football programs that have been developed on their campuses.

While football has obviously grown in popularity in part because of the strength of individual programs, the paramount issue on the minds of any school officials should be the safety of those who participate.

This new look at conditioning, coupled with the national debate about the dangers of concussions and other head injuries resulting from participation in the high impact sport, would seem to indicate that sports officials are taking that approach seriously.

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