The 2017 football season ended earlier this month with the playing of Super Bowl LII. But for high school coaches in North Carolina, the 2018 season will be getting underway soon thanks to changes last spring in N.C. High School Athletic Association rules.
At its meeting last May, the NCHSAA Board of Directors removed the last obstacles to offseason football practice, allowing coaches to work with their full squads during the months football isn’t in season.
There are a few limits for safety reasons. If the coaches decide to practice with players wearing helmets and shoulder pads, they must have an athletic trainer or first responder present. No body-to-body contact is allowed in offseason workouts.
Coaches have different ideas on how to schedule their offseason practice sessions.
Cape Fear coach Jake Thomas said his team won’t begin offseason workouts until after the spring sports dead period, which is the first two weeks official practice begins for spring sports teams: Feb. 14-March 7.
“We’re going to go into more of a conditioning phase and do workouts after school with the guys who are not playing a spring sport,’’ he said. “I want most of my guys to be playing a sport in the spring.’’
Once spring break draws closer, Thomas said, the Colts will be doing work with specific offensive and defensive units.
One of the benefits of the offseason sessions, since it won’t be possible to have the whole team out because of spring sports, is the chance for individual work. “You can start working on fundamentals and putting the foundation in,’’ Thomas said.
E.E. Smith coach Deron Donald also plans to wait until the dead period is over before starting workouts. “We’ll go two or three days a week,’’ he said. “No helmet. None of that. Real light, working on technical things.’’
Donald liked the idea of using the expanded workout sessions to focus on teaching the basics of the Smith system.
“Learning is very important,’’ he said. “We’ll be doing a lot of teaching. Once we start in May, then we’ll come up with helmets and shoulder pads.’’
Terry Sanford coach Bruce McClelland said his early workouts will focus on individual work since so many of his players will be involved with spring sports.
“The ones that don’t play baseball (and track) we’ll go slowly with,’’ he said. “Toward the end of May, we will do our team or spring training thing.’’
McClelland also sees the offseason workouts as a chance to give players new or inexperienced with the Terry Sanford system a jump start.
“Some of the kids that haven’t ever played football we’ll try to get acclimated to what we do,’’ he said. “We want to keep them in shape for the summer grind like we did last year.’’
Seventy-First coach Duran McLaurin is taking a different approach from some of his fellow coaches. The Falcons are already doing some limited work outside, in addition to traditional offseason weightlifting.
“This is going to be a pilot year,’’ McLaurin said, referring to how coaches will learn how best to use the new offseason workout rules for their football program. “The more work you get in, the better you can be.’’
McLaurin agreed with the other coaches that he wants his football players to be either playing for a spring sports team at Seventy-First or on the field with him and his coaches for offseason workouts.
“None of our guys will be sitting around this spring,’’ he said.
Photos: Bruce McClelland and Duran McLaurin