On Wednesday, the Virginia High School League’s executive committee voted down a proposal that would have eliminated offseason practices for high school teams.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that the VHSL voted 29-3 against the proposal, with one vote abstaining. According to VHSL spokesperson Mike McCall, however, the door to a possible compromise that would limit out-of-season practices without entirely eliminating them remains open.
The call to eliminate out-of-season practices grew out of concerns that coaches are being stretched too thin and run the risk of burnout. Since out-of-season practices began in 2011, coaches hoping to field competitive teams have had to run weight room sessions and practices year round. Football is a particularly demanding sport.
“Coaches are paid very minimal, and you are asking to run year-long programs,” Steve Davies, the athletic director at Thomas Dale, told the Times-Dispatch. “With teaching, family and other sport commitments, our coaches are becoming burnt out.”
Davies said that an alternative to eliminating offseason practices would be extending so-called “dead periods,” spots on the calendar where offseason practices are prohibited. Typically, these dead periods fall around the July 4 holiday, and during the tryout periods for other sports.
Despite concerns, many coaches feel the positives outweigh the negatives. By allowing year-round practices, student-athletes get to continue to develop with a coach who knows them, as opposed to turning to personal coaches, travel or AAU programs. During offseason football practices, players can focus on safer tackling techniques and preventing head injuries. Finally, one coach suggested that participation in sports, whether in-season or out, helps keep students focused in the classroom.