Parasiliti - New policy adds heat to coaching

August 05, 2012|By BOB PARASILITI
  • Bob Parasiliti
Joe Crocetta

“Just win, baby.”

That was the novel motto of late Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, back when the real good guys wore black.

Basically the message was don’t worry about contracts, media and all the politics that surround the NFL.

The only job for the Raiders was to win games and championships.

Davis took care of the rest.

There was a time when high school football was a matter of just winning.

In those days, football was seamless. Friday nights were the highlight of the week.

Every issue and problem paled against victory. Everyone was happy and successful coaches were worth their weight in Gatorade.

In movies like “Radio” and “Remember the Titans,” those teams faced myriad political and social issues. Winning solved everything.

In those movies, coaches were fixtures.

All they did was coach the team, watch film to prepare to coach the team and go to barber shops to talk about preparing to coach the team.

The toughest thing was smoothing the ruffled feathers of boosters and parents.

Well, some things never change.

Coaching in the 21st century is far different than those 1950s and ‘60s movie scripts. First, there are salons instead of barber shops.

Coaching used to be more of a passion than a job. Now it’s a job with a little passion attached.

Coaching football — any prep sport for that matter — is the ultimate test of multitasking.

Any coach will tell you the expectations of the position have changed with mountains of paperwork, dealing with equipment, checking if players had physicals and have insurance, monitoring the team’s academics and working on the field.

Then there is the babysitting, which ranges from making sure each player has a ride home to playing psychologist to prevent the rage of adolescence and life hurting focus and team chemistry.

That’s all before any playbooks, practice plans and game plans are created and provided.

So, now that coaches are used to the juggling process, it’s the right time to add one more ball.

A new Maryland state law was implemented on July 1 requiring all public school systems to create a policy to help student-athletes adapt to the summer heat that is part of preseason practice.

A committee consisting of state athletic officials, trainers, medical experts and high school coaches and athletic directors formulated a 16-page model for a heat acclimatization program, which was released on June 22.

It will be unveiled on Saturday with the official start of fall practice.

Let’s just say right here, the policy is a great idea. Health issues — and death — caused by extreme heat exhaustion have soared nationally and have become a major concern — along with concussions — for athletic and medical officials.

This policy is much needed to ensure the safety of young athletes. Many of the guidelines are helpful, but are also a matter of common sense.

There are guidelines for practice, including limits on length, frequency and when and how much equipment can be worn. It also gives instruction for the rest and hydration of players.

The rules and training will help coaches see the warning signs. The policy is also a large tarp to cover the posterior of any state liabilities.

It targets all fall sports, but football and field hockey are the main focal points because of the use of protective equipment.

Under the rules, football teams in essence will lose five days of full-contact practice in compliance of the policy that covers the first 14 days of practices.

Full equipment, used in contact practices, is forbidden until Aug. 17. That’s just two weeks before the first game, at a time when teams usually schedule their first scrimmages.

Although the policy is needed for safety sake, it adds another hurdle to football coaches, who already have their hands tied by a number school system policies.

Add to it another — albeit needed — distraction in preparing the team.

Now, while running drills, coaches will have to be more cognizant of players taking on fluids, even if they say they’re not thirsty. They will have to know when to exclude players for health reasons.

Somewhere, someone needs to call in the cavalry. High school football isn’t a game anymore.

Now, more than ever — if the policy is to run correctly — there is a need for a fulltime medical staff at our schools.

If Maryland’s new law was so important, it should have required training staffs to go with the guidelines.

Like it or not, football is the largest school function of the year. It is expensive, but it also creates the most pride and interest.

It is an extra-curricular activity and some consider it unneeded, but name another school activity that involves so many kids on a common ground, with students participating as players, cheerleaders, color guard and band members.

In it all, the bottom line remains that coaches are still graded, hired and fired by wins and losses. All the other hats are needed, but detract from the love of that job and its security.

Another coaching motto is “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”

Maybe that was true in a different time and a different era.

But these days in high school football, it’s now wrong on both counts.

Bob Parasiliti is a staff writer for The Herald-Mail. He can be reached at 301-791-7358 or by email at

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