Mid Michigan head football coach weighs in on MHSAA reductions for full-contact practices

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DAVISON, Michigan (WJRT) - (05/10/2019) - This week the Michigan High School Athletic Association voted to reduce full-contact football practices.

ABC 12 News spoke with a Mid Michigan head coach who voted for the new rules, to get his take on the changes.

"It's a great change for these kids," said Courtney Hawkins,"it's a great change for the game."

Hawkins is the head football coach and the athletic director at Beecher High School. He also sits on the representative council of the MHSAA, which means he got to vote for the rule changes.

The former NFL player shared with us some of his thoughts on the changes:

"I played at the highest level," he said," I understand that you have to preserve the body, you can't just go out and beat guys everyday and expect them to be able to play on Friday night."

"This model is built off of what professional teams do," he added,"in this day and age with everybody scared about concussions and the big push for safety."

Hawkins says in his time at Beecher, they've used a "limited collision" approach since came on board 13 years ago.

The new rules that will apply to all high schools statewide call for no more than six hours of full-pads collision contact per week in the preseason. In the past, Michigan allowed one full-contact practice a day.

"Collision" is defined as contact at game speed, with the execution of full tackles, taking player to the ground.

The rules also reduce full-contact practice allowed during the season from 90 to 30 minutes a week.

What's being added is a contact period called "Thud."

Mark Uyl, the executive director of the MHSAA explains what that means:

"It's still full speed contact lineman-to-lineman," he said,"but no player's getting taken to the ground."

"We're hoping coaches can use this unlimited thud period to be able to teach contact and hitting in a safe, controlled environment," Uyl added.

Michigan is the second state after New Jersey to implement rules favored by Practice Like Pros, a non profit dedicated to reducing football injuries in student athletes.

In New Jersey, officials have reduced full-pads collision contact football practice to 15 minutes a week during the football season.

The group cites studies that show 58% of concussions in high school football players happen on the practice field, compared with 4% in the NFL.

"Some of those accidents happen, but if they can help them reduce that," said Tyler McCastle,"cause they're practicing all the time, so I think it's going to help them."

McCastle, whose ninth grader will be playing football this fall, thinks the MHSAA vote is a move in the right direction.

However Clarkston mom Wendy Carroll, whose 15-year old son plays the drums, says she would never allow him to play football, even if he wanted to:

"I mean you look at all the NFL players that have issues today that are in their, you know, 50's and 60's, no way, no way," Carroll said, "I would discourage football."

"Football has some violence too it," Hawkins said, "and there's always a chance."

"I don't want to, you know, fool anybody or mislead anyone," he said.

"But the game has moved," Hawkins added, "years ahead and hopefully you'll see less injuries."

Hawkins said that he thinks the game is as safe as it's ever been.

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