AL HAMNIK: Prep football won't be joining the dinosaurs any time soon

2013-10-28T17:00:00Z 2013-12-12T22:10:28Z AL HAMNIK: Prep football won't be joining the dinosaurs any time soonAl Hamnik Times Columnist nwitimes.com
October 28, 2013 5:00 pm  • 

I remember the Soldier Field press box igniting during a Bears-Packers game, when a brutal special teams hit saw two writers give each other a high 5.

I've lost count of the ooohs and aaahs in high school press boxes following a numbing tackle.

That is football's crazy appeal -- large, fast bodies crashing into larger, immovable structures, kinda like egging someone's house.

We've become increasingly aware of the game's risks and dangers at all levels: Concussions. Brain damage. Paralysis.

Now, the so-called "experts" on the periphery, citing the rise in concussions and liability, are saying high school football will be gone in the next five years and made a club sport for those wishing to push the envelope.

Really? Are we that afraid?

A quick call to Robert Faulkens, the Indiana High School Athletic Association assistant commissioner in charge of football, provided some insight to this issue.

"To go from no athletic football programs at the high schools to club football programs is a very expensive venture," he said. "Football is probably one of the most expensive sports with respect to facilities and equipment. Just the helmet is $185.

"(Club) football would severely limit the number of kids who could play the sport because of the cost."

The IHSAA has made football safety a priority over the last five years, with the state legislature finally becoming more pro active.

Munster's Community Hospital has a concussion clinic that has proven invaluable in monitoring area teams and their athletes, regardless of the sport.

"We have some great physicians in the state of Indiana who are very, very well-versed in concussion management," Faulkens said. "They have given us great direction."

Prep football is not out of control as so-called "experts" believe, at least not in Indiana. Summer workouts will be restructured when the state coaches association presents its proposal to the IHSAA in January.

"They're going to go with very specific guidelines about how many days you can have and what you can do on those specific days," said Faulkens, citing two reasons.

Many coaches are burned out because of the time they put in out of fear of being "left behind" by rival coaches going above and beyond in their preparation, according to Faulkens.

The second issue, and this may shock you, is the players are getting burned out, Faulkens noted.

"Kids are being injured because of the amount of time they're spending playing their one sport. All of our research says kids have a lifetime of 10 years for any one sport," Faulkens said. "And that lifetime is decreased the more they specialize."

The heat issues that come with summer training are another big concern of the coaches association.

"They've set aside their differences on what's best for me and are looking at it as what's best for the sport of football," Faulkens said. "They are to be commended."

Prep football will never resort to flag or two hands below the waist, thankfully.

Administrators will not pull the plug on the No. 1 participatory sport in high school and the revenue it generates, setting the tone for the school year.

Monitor the game. Keep it safe as possible. Those are the only options we have.

This column is solely the writer's opinion. Reach him at al.hamnik@nwi.com

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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