It was announced yesterday that programs at the Division III level would no longer be allowed to conduct two-a-day practices. Shortly after, the Division II management council announced that they plan to follow suit.
Last night I had the opportunity to talk with a number of coaches at the Division III level, and while all admit the absence of two-a-days will force them to be creative with how they spend their time during camp now to make up for the time on the practice field that they're losing (not to mention the mental toughness that's being created in players who go through strenuous two-a-days) I also heard an interesting concern from a few coaches as well.
For those that may not know, the Division III level is the only level of college football that the NCAA does not allow players to wear shoulder pads and helmets during spring practices. Even the NAIA level allows schools to go full pads during the spring period. So a handful of the coaches I talked to about the decision to eliminate two-a-days based on the latest research, essentially in the name of player safety asked an important question:
If that's really the case, then why are players prevented from wearing the most basic level of protection and safety during their spring practice season?
It's an excellent question, and one that I certainly don't have a good answer for. I know Division III teams come out of every spring with more questions than answers, and handcuffed by rules that don't allow them to really develop players the way the majority of them would like to because they get 15 practices in shorts and t-shirts instead of actual football equipment.
As a player, I remember blocking stationary garbage cans and picking them up and "driving" them 5 yards before turning around for the next rep because we didn't have equipment on and coaches had to be creative to make sure we weren't smashing faces at "half speed" with defensive lineman also battling for pride and a spot on the depth chart. It's something that the NCAA has insisted on for years that has never made a whole lot of sense to those involved in Division III athletics.
As all coaches at the Division III level are forced to do during the spring, they'll spend the coming days, weeks, and months meeting to figure out a plan on how to maximize the limited time without two-a-days that they now have during fall camp, very similar to how they've been forced to do while handcuffed in the spring season.
As decisions continue to be made in interest of player safety, I feel it's important to make sure the coaches in the profession have their voices and concerns heard, and it's time we shine some light on a very real player safety issue that is on the mind of a lot of the profession's coaches. While some choose to hide behind the cloak of player safety when it's convenient, coaches are the ones in the forefront living, eating and breathing it every day.