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Football Frenzy: Few guidelines in place to monitor summer camps on the gridiron
by Dan Eckles
Apr 04, 2013 | 3528 views | 0 0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune file photo - Spanish Springs football coach Scott Hare talks with players in a huddle during the Cougars’ 2011 summer camp at Golden Eagle Regional Park, the SSHS program’s initial venture into hosting its own mutli-team full-contact event.
Tribune file photo - Spanish Springs football coach Scott Hare talks with players in a huddle during the Cougars’ 2011 summer camp at Golden Eagle Regional Park, the SSHS program’s initial venture into hosting its own mutli-team full-contact event.
Two-a-day football practices, or double days as they’re affectionately called, have long been a rite of passage for high school football players across the country. Double days usually fill the practice schedule for the first week-to-10 days of each new season, but that won’t be the case in the Truckee Meadows this fall.

It’s unclear if it ever will be again.

The Washoe County School District’s decision to implement a new calendar for the 2013-14 school year has put a monkey wrench in the practice plans of local football coaches. The new school calendar calls for a start date of Aug. 12. WCSD prep programs can begin practices without helmets and pads, a four-day heat acclimation period, on Aug. 10 and then can begin practice with just helmets on Aug. 15. Full-contact drills can start Aug. 19. Additionally, teachers must report for duty Aug. 7.

Essentially, there is no stretch of time for double-day workouts.   

“I think it’s going to be a huge difference,” Spanish Springs football coach Scott Hare said. “You’re basically cutting out half of your (preseason) practices. Think about it, if everyone ran double days, you’re losing at least six full practices and four of those in full gear, all before the first scrimmage. That’s a lot. It’s not as big a deal if you’re in Week 7 when you’re in constant game plan mode, but when you’re in installation mode, that is a big deal.

“A lot of teams will not have nearly what they’d like installed and what they do will be a lot sloppier because you haven’t had time to refine it. We coaches already felt like that first game, the hall of fame game, came quick. Now that will almost be a glorified scrimmage. I think you’ll see a lot of mistakes that will get corrected over the following couple weeks.”  

Sparks football coach Rob Kittrell had similar sentiments.

“We’re losing about eight practices compared to everybody we play against except Wooster,” the Railroaders gridiron skipper said. “With the new school calendar, there’s no possible way to do double days.”

The school calendar and practice schedule changes have left local coaches scrambling to find a solution that can help their squads be just as prepared for a new season as they have been in the past.

Hare thinks he’s found one that may not fully make up for a loss of double-day workouts, but will certainly close the gap. Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association (NIAA) guidelines have allowed prep football programs statewide to participate in a full-contact summer camp that may be no longer than a week in duration. Hare, who has hosted a multi-team camp at Golden Eagle Regional Park each of the past two summers, has decided to set his camp July 28 through Aug. 1, the last possible week to not conflict with teaching and student class schedules.

He’s hoping the late-summer camp will help his staff assess talent and help his players retain schemes and technique with a new season fast approaching. He’s not the only one. Galena, Sparks, Wooster and Hug are all set to attend the Cougars’ third annual camp.

“I like the idea,” said Kittrell, whose Railroaders have not attended a summer camp in recent years. “It’s going to get us four extra days of practice before the actual season starts. Hopefully, we can get our base stuff in and go from there.”

Hare had taken his Cougars teams to summer camps on the Oregon Coast and to the University of Nevada’s team camp. He began exploring the idea of hosting his own team camp when he felt his staff could accomplish the same goals by staying in town and he could save his student athletes some money.

Hare was told by WCSD athletic officials to host a camp, it would have to adhere to three guidelines. It could not be on a school’s home campus. It must have more than one school/team participating and it must have a trainer on staff.

So Hare went out and set up his own camp, drawing praise for ‘thinking outside the box’ from many local coaches and administrators. However, at last month’s Division I North coaches meeting, the question of what constitutes a camp again came up. The NIAA announced there were no formal rules on the books. That’s created some havoc.

So much so that at this week’s NIAA Board of Control meeting a discussion item was on the organization’s agenda to address concerns on some schools pushing the proverbial envelope.  

“Part of the trouble is we’ve had an unwritten agreement between the coaches in northern Nevada and southern Nevada,” NIAA Assistant Director Donnie Nelson said. “That is in general that schools have a four-week window from mid-June to mid-July where, if they’re given permission from their district and administration, they are able to participate in full-contact camps.

“Now we have a situation with Washoe County starting classes earlier; some schools are asking for an extension to go outside that window. The discussion at our meeting was at some point down the road do we need to have some regulations in place. There will be more discussions. We’d like to think the NIAA is hands off in the summer time. But with this group of schools pushing the envelope, we may have to develop regulations.”

Spanish Springs is indeed planning to host a camp at a date likely frowned on by the NIAA. Multiple sources have confirmed McQueen plans to host a summer camp on its home campus, another faux pas under former district rules. However, with no formal regulations in place there is little to keep schools from trying to hold summer workouts that bring maximum benefits in the eyes of coaches.

“There was a gentlemen’s agreement to not host camps in late July,” WCSD Coordinator of Athletics Brian Rothe said via phone interview after Tuesday’s NIAA meeting adjourned. “That led to the discussion today.

Rothe, a former football coach at Reno High School, seems to laud the efforts of coaches looking to fill the gap in workouts with the loss of two-a-days.

“I’m a proponent of camps. I visited the Spanish Springs camp last year. I spent a day to see it first hand ... Sometimes when you say full-contact football, it raises an eyebrow. Our coaches are well trained. They attend clinics. They know how to coach football.

“These camps are different. The kids are in drills for short bursts. Generally there are not tackles bringing kids to the ground. There are quick whistles. A full-contact football camp is different than a full-contact game. It’s controlled. Coaches don’t want kids in gear getting hurt. Coaches know what’s best for their kids and how to prepare for a season. The coaches in our area do a great job.”

One Sparks school is the king of the mountain in northern Nevada football. Reed has won three of the last four regional titles. Veteran Raiders coach Ernie Howren is still mulling over his summer camp options. The Nevada Wolf Pack summer camp has been a staple of Reed’s summer schedule in recent years, but Howren admitted he likes the idea of hosting his own camp.

“We are tentatively scheduled to go to UNR camp in June,” Howren said. “But we’ve talked about it as a coaching staff and if we’re allowed to do an on-campus camp, we’d treat it like college spring ball, have non-padded and then padded practices before ending with a ‘spring game.’ It’s something we can give a personal feel to at Reed. We definitely like the idea of trying to do it at Reed and seeing what happens, at least for a year.”

And at least for this year, it looks like the NIAA and WCSD won’t stop schools by implementing any last ditch hurdles in the form of more stringent or uniform regulations.
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