As a safety precaution for both the game of football and its players, the state recently passed yet another version of the concussion bill, this one geared toward youth football, which is set to go into effect in January 2021.
The bill, which passed on both the assembly floor and the Senate Health Committee unanimously, mirrors the one already in effect for middle and high schools in the state. The highlights of the legislation include limiting full-contact practices to not more than twice a week for 30 minutes each, an offseason ban on any contact, and a requirement for an emergency medical technician or high-level medical professional to be present at all games and practices.
John Ithurburn, a first-year head coach with the Yuba City Junior Honkers and former head varsity coach at Yuba City High, has mixed feelings about the legislation.
“I get the point and I appreciate the fact they are looking out for these kids but (at the same time) you got big brother telling you what to do,” Ithurburn said this week during practice with the 12-under group. “How far are they going to go with this?”
Ithurburn said coaching youth football is much different than high school. At the youth level, Ithurburn said more instruction is needed during practice, which takes more time. It’s a necessity, he said, to keep the players safe.
“Some of the stuff we got to do is for safety,” Ithurburn said. “We’re teaching them how to hit and play. When you put them on the field and they haven’t done it then there’s another safety issue, because you didn’t allow us the correct amount of time to teach what we need to teach.”
Ithurburn said at the high school level the players have more experience and can better work around full contact limitations.
“You can do it at the older level because they have more experience,” he said.
Ithurburn said part of the day-to-day instruction is geared around “instilling a bit of toughness” in the players.
“This is the pain game,” he said. “You got to play with pain. If you’re going to play with no pain then everybody is going to be standing on the sidelines.”
Richard Dixon, Junior Honkers’ President and head coach of the 8-and-under team, said as it stands now rarely does full contact at practice go over 20 minutes.
“That’s on the high side,” Dixon said.
Dixon said actual contact is only a small percentage of the overall work during a two-hour practice. There is also a lot of instruction given, followed by a rest period, warm ups and cool down.
“It’s not constant smashing for three hours straight,” Dixon said.
With new legislation going into place, Dixon said instruction may have to be cutback in order to meet the 30-minute limit.
“The problem is I don’t have the time to teach them how to do stuff correctly,” he said. “There’s so much that goes into a tackle, it’s not just colliding with someone.”
The new rules could lead to more injuries down the road, Dixon said.
“We’re trying to cram a lot of stuff down their throats in a short amount of time,” Dixon said. “It all comes down to spending time with these kids.”
Another factor is the independent EMT requirement posted at all practices. Dixon feels that could have a negative impact financially on the program.
“If we got to pay an EMT at every practice that could be a significant cost that could take away from purchasing equipment to keep these kids safe,” Dixon said.
Dixon said equipment costs range from $15,000 just for helmets. For all the equipment for four teams Dixon said it’s $25,000.
He said the new legislation could also play a significant financial role going forward.