Prep football: Banging the drum for spring football

With snow on the ground and a cold wind blowing, it sure felt like football weather on Tuesday.
If Ohio State coach Urban Meyer had his way, spring could be as important to the sport as August two-a-days and frosty fall nights.
At a coaches clinic before the annual OSU spring game, and again during a recent appearance at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Luncheon Club, Meyer pushed the idea of allowing Ohio high school coaches, as colleges and many southern states do, to have an extended period in the spring to run football practices.
“We have to do something to keep giving our coaches access in the state of Ohio. Right now, our coaches don’t have a lot of that,” Meyer said in an article published in the Akron Beacon Journal. “When you go down to Texas you have 85 guys down there working back and forth.”
“I read that article, and I was at the coaches clinic where he (Meyer) talked about this,” said Findlay High football coach Mark Ritzler.
“I have many friends in the (Ohio High School Football Coaches Association) and I know they have been pushing for something like this. It’s been talked about for awhile.”
Spring football practice is common in many southern states, including Texas, where coaches can instruct student-athletes in 18 practices during a 30-day period.
Ohio high school football coaches have a 10-day period in the summer when they can conduct camps, clinics and/or seven-on-seven scrimmages. Full practices in preparation for the season begin in August.
Under the current rule, adopted by the Ohio High School Athletic Association just over a year ago, high school football coaches can instruct as many as four athletes in out-of-season sessions, but no more than four and that includes the entire school system.
“We can’t have a coach at Glenwood (Middle School) working with four kids there and a coach at the high school working with four kids (at the same time),” Ritzler said.
“It’s actually better than what we had, where we were allowed no contact outside of that 10-day summer period. Now you can coach, do drills, have a football … as long as you have no more than four players.”
There is no limit on the number of student athletes who can attend an open gym for sports like football or basketball. Under that concept, though, coaches can only serve as monitors, and cannot comment on players or offer instruction.
Ritzler would like see the current rule adapted.
“It makes sense, when it comes to football anyway, to be able to have at least seven players,” he said. “Then you can do more things as far as the offensive line or defensive formations.”
Ritzler isn’t sold, though, on what the whole concept of spring football would entail.
“When he (Meyer) says ‘spring football’ is he talking about true spring football like they have in the south and like they have in college, where you have a couple of days of acclimation, a couple of days in just helmets and a couple of days of full contact? Or are they talking about just working out with as many players as you want in shorts and t-shirts?
“I know the state coaches association is working with coach Meyer and (new Cleveland Browns coach) Mike Pettine on something, but as far as when, I’m not sure.
“What we have now is better than what we used to have, but I’d also appreciate an opportunity to be able to do something more.”
Introducing the idea of spring football has generated a buzz.
Implementing it would be another matter.
“I like the idea on paper, but personally I think it’s a pipe dream,” said Arlington football coach Dick Leonard.
“As a football guy, I’d love to be able to work with my team without being under the strict rules they have now. But I don’t think it’s ever going to happen because spring sports like baseball and track are too strong.
“We’re not as big as Texas or California. You can’t pull kids away from other sports. That would be devastating in a small-school setting like ours. I think kids have the right to play other sports and have fun doing it, and I wouldn’t want to see other sports effected by something like that.”
Ottawa-Glandorf football coach Ken Schriner agreed.
“I not a big fan of it (spring practice), because kids need time for other sports and most schools don’t have the size to support it,” Schriner said.
“We have a lot of football kids playing other sports and we have (football) coaches coaching other sports. How are they going to have the time to do all that?
“We have to share athletes at our level. If a kid has an opportunity to play college football or basketball, at that level I can understand that. But I am and always have been against specialization in one sport. But there’s a lot of specialization going on and I don’t think that’s good for the athlete and the program.”
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