30 games. Four months. 12 minute quarters. Whatever the case may be for your sport… high school sports has become a monster.
As a coach of a small 2A charter school in a town of three streets I’m well versed in ironman football. It’s the title of my blog, it’s the thing I’m learning to love and appreciate more than look upon with anxiety. However, I’ve felt that in the independent level twelve minute quarters are too long for teams of 17-35 players. I have players that log 130 snaps a game because half of my roster cannot find their way onto the field, no matter how hard my coaching staff tries. We look at spots on offense, defense, and in the kicking game to get guys in- but like any other coach I don’t want to sacrifice a punt return for a touchdown because I let someone that isn’t physically, mentally, or emotionally ready to play into a game in a pivotal role. I believe the small ironman schools at the independent level, and possibly even into 1A and 2A, should play 10 minute quarters. I’m not sure if everyone would agree to that, but when it comes to injuries in a game often criticized for brutality, it could help.
The length of a high school football season is also too long, but I believe by only one game. Here in Florida, once you enter districts you will play a kick off classic, which is a pre-season game, plus ten regular season games over eleven weeks. If you make the playoffs, the small schools will play four and the large schools five games if you make it as far as the state finals. The seasons begin the first week of August and can drag on into mid-December. Many of our athletes then move on to soccer or basketball (and in many schools wrestling), and from there baseball or boys volleyball (and in many schools lacrosse).
Basketball, soccer and baseball start their seasons around MLK Day and they can stretch on into early or mid May while playing twenty-five regular season games with a few pre-season games and districts. A high school baseball, soccer, or basketball season could stretch into forty games! For teenagers that are juggling an eight hour school day to go with 40 games and more than likely 150 or so practices- that’s just too much on their young developing bodies. These players aren’t offered college and pro level nutritionists, strength coaches, or around-the-clock treatment from state of the art athletic training staffs.
I firmly believe our state ruling bodies need to examine the total number of games teams can play and limit them to prevent injury, burn out, and deterioration and to keep the focus on the STUDENT half of student-athlete.