High school coaches in Arizona are now able to practice year-round with their teams, following a vote Friday by the Arizona Interscholastic Association.
According to AZ Central, the measure passed with ease, by a vote of 39-5 in favor and will go into effect July 1. The new rule does not put limitations on out-of-season practices on all sports except football, where helmets and shoulder pads will not be allowed during football workouts. The AIA did take steps to define "spring practice" in the state as 18 practices over four weeks, for whatever that is worth.
The article sums up the change succinctly by stating: Essentially, what it means is this: A football coach can now practice three, four, five teams a week during the winter sports season; a softball coach can do the same during the fall season.
On the surface, this may seem like great news for coaches because they get more time with their kids, but the big picture is what concerns me because I think this may discourage some kids from becoming multi-sport athletes and will open the door for a lot of student athletes to focus on one sport year-round.
This is especially true in smaller schools, where multi-sport athletes are relied on to field teams, period. Now those kids may choose to just focus on preparing for their primary sport year-round.
This also opens up the conversation on a number of other topics for conversation, like whether or not coaches will favor players who dedicate themselves to one sport over multi-sport players because they've "committed" themselves to that sport, and in turn whether coaches will truly encourage multi-sport athletes in the same manner they did before, or if selfishness will creep in and the urge to push players to dedicate more to their sport will creep in. Even if coaches are fully in favor of it, think back to when you were a kid and how much you wanted to impress the coach in your primary sport to get on the field, there are going to be a lot of kids skipping out on other sports to simply do that.
One of the main reasons this was introduced was that coaches apparently feel like they've lost a lot of their players to club sports, and in the case of football, the rise of 7-on-7 competitions, according to AZ Central. This was their way of getting those kids - far and away the minority of high school athletes - back.
While I can see why coaches would want more time with their team without all the red tape that comes along with off season work in many states, that include stipulations like only being able to work with 4 players at a time on football-specific stuff in the off season, I don't see enough reasons that this is a move in the right direction for kids - and that's who should be at the forefront of this conversation.
With all the research on sports specialization and the dangers and drawbacks of it, I just don't see where this move makes a whole lot of sense.