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New GHSA rule makes football coaches cautious of time management in practice
West Hall's Tyquan Stathanm works out on defense during a recent Spartans practice. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times

Coaching high school football has made mastery of time management a must.

With new rules adopted by the Georgia High School Association, full contact is now limited to 45 minutes on back-to-back days. As area programs began practice in pads Saturday, coaches were having to keep a close eye on the amount of time players were tackling to the ground.

These rules, aimed to limit head injuries, were originally approved by the National Federation of State High School Associations, which the GHSA also deemed wise to utilize.

Flowery Branch coach Chris Griffin said it’s a major change from the past, having to coordinate all position group activities, so as not to waste any minutes labeled as full-contact. Adherence to the new rule is a must. First offense will result in anywhere from a $500-2,500 fine, while the second offense will disqualify a program from postseason play, as outlined on the GHSA’s website.

Hand-written records of the exact minutes of full-contact periods must be kept by the coaching staff, then turned in to the school’s athletic director to be kept on file. The GHSA can ask for a school’s minutes for a month either at random or if a violation of rules is suspected.

“This is a big change to get used to,” said Griffin. “It’s like doing a science project.”

To maximize practice periods with contact, the Falcons coach will have all position groups doing contact at the same time. If one group does full-contact work for 10 minutes, it counts toward the total for the entire team. The 45 minutes of full-contact can only be done on back-to-back days. Then on the third day, no full-contact is allowed. The limit for full-contact in practice is 135 minutes per week.

Since the new rule changes the structure of full-contact time, Chestatee coach Bill Forman said it forces those in charge to get creative with practice structure. Gainesville coach Bruce Miller said the evaluation process of players started back
during spring drills. During the summer, the Red Elephants did enough 7-on-7 work to get a good feel for his best players at each position.

“The biggest thing right now is just getting used to the heat,” said Miller.

The Red Elephants are in the unique position of preparing a first-time quarterback at the varsity level for the first time since Deshaun Watson was a freshman in 2010. Miller said Messiah Dorsey, who played receiver previously, looks primed to take over the job, since The Times’ 2014 Football Player of the Year Mikey Gonzalez has graduated.

West Hall coach Tony Lotti, who opened practice with a mini-camp Saturday, said the new rule for full-contact practice impacts his program very little, if at all. The Spartans, who won the Region 7-AAA title in 2014, have many prominent skill players back this season and look to be a contender again.

“I’m pleased with how our kids are conducting themselves,” said Lotti. “We’re trying to build a program, not a team.”

Once the regular season begins, full-contact time goes down. Per day, only 30 minutes is allowed per practice and 90 minutes a week.

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