SPRINGFIELD -- Following pressure from a suburban Democrat to limit tackling in youth and high school football practice, the Illinois High School Association approved new safety policies Wednesday trying to limit injuries.
IHSA officials presented the new safety policies to a House committee Wednesday morning and approved them later in the day.
The safety policies limit practice time but not nearly as dramatically as Rep. Carol Sente's controversial proposal would have done. The Vernon Hills Democrat's proposal, which would have limited the number of days players could tackle during practice to one day a week, was defeated in late March.
"We think the policies we've put in place here will be beneficial to young people who participate in high school football," said Marty Hickman, IHSA executive director.
Under the policy, coaches would be required to gradually increase the number of pads players could wear and time they can practice throughout preseason. After the sixth day of the preseason, players are allowed to dress in full pads and participate in full contact drills.
Sente said the new IHSA plans still could allow too much time for tackling in practice. She said the IHSA rules still allow for as much as five hours per day on some days of preseason practice.
Sente said part of her concern is that without limiting tackling time, bad coaches can expose their players to dangerous drills.
"There are some that think they're doing something good but they are out there injuring our kids and I am concerned that there's no definition in that five hours," Sente said. "The good coaches, we're not worried about."
Hickman said when school starts, coaches have significantly less time to conduct any practice, making preseason very important.
"There is a very short window where any of this can go on," Hickman said.
Hickman added that coaches can use their practice time to run non-contact drills as well.
The IHSA board of directors approved the rules at a meeting Wednesday afternoon.
Suburban members on the IHSA board supported the changes.
"I feel like it is common sense, but we still cannot stress it enough," Dan Klett, Wauconda High School principal and IHSA Board president, said in a statement. "It would be irrational not to follow a policy provided by some of the top individuals in the medical field."
In addition, the IHSA will offer interactive online webinar meetings for high school coaches to answer questions about the new safety policies.
"I think most coaches understood that changes were on the horizon," Hickman said. "We now want to be in a position to give our coaches as much information as possible to make sure they are comfortable with the new policy."
Sente said she would review the IHSA's new rules proposals and if she did not feel it did enough to protect young athletes she would try again next year.