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Restricted practice periods eased for high school sports

The rules for and length of moratorium time periods governing sanctioned high school sports have been shortened, strengthened and simplified with new guidelines passed last month by the Utah High School Activities Association.

After a lengthy consideration of the issues involved, the UHSAA Board of Trustees adopted the new policies, which officially take effect on August 1.

The most significant change is that most sports have had their 12-week dead-time periods shortened to a four-week moratorium, with stricter rules and penalties attached for violations during those designated times.

The BOT has also earmarked July 7-14, 2014, as an all-sports moratorium week, adding to the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day holidays which already have this designation.

The “three weeks prior” restrictions which prohibited coaching, practices, drills, etc., prior to the start date of each sport was reduced to “two weeks prior” to the start date as well.

The reduction in dead-time periods addressed some concerns expressed by coaches and athletic directors about safety and conditioning, as well as the need for more options in scheduling out-of-season activities.

These are the new designated moratorium periods by sport:

Baseball, golf, soccer, softball, tennis and volleyball: combine four weeks with the Christmas Moratorium days.

Basketball: first two weeks in August and two weeks following state.

Cross Country: four weeks beginning March 1.

Drill Team: schools select four weeks on “UHSAA Drill Dead Time Form” due January 15.

Football: two weeks following state and two weeks beginning with spring tryouts.

Swimming: last two weeks of April and the middle two weeks in August.

Track: four weeks beginning September 1.

Wrestling: four weeks beginning August 1.

Reaction was mixed among contacted coaches, with some thinking the new rules will have little impact on their programs while others thought they would mean some substantial changes. Either way, most seemed to feel the guidelines will be easier to follow and will benefit their athletes overall.

Timpview football coach Cary Whittingham said the change “hasn’t really affected us at all. We have always tried to give the kids a quality summer.”

The coach said he thought the UHSAA looked at calendars to try to make it so the kids can actually have a summer, but the dates for the July moratorium “magically matched up with what we were already doing,” he said.

“Time off is valuable for anybody to do what Steve Covey said, get away to sharpen the saw,” Whittingham explained. “It’s just smart to give the kids time to rejuvenate so they’ll be ready to go hard again when they come back.”

Ed Louder coaches both boys and girls soccer at Orem High School and said there will be a greater impact on the girls side of things.

“Clubs have a lot of control of the girls over the summer as far as scheduling goes, and when you add in family vacations, church camps and other activities, it can be very difficult to find time for necessary training,” he said.

“The idea of a moratorium is good; all kids need breaks,” he continued. “With most kids going year-round now, it’s good to get a little balance. The timing is just a little odd, at least for soccer.

“To me, it would have made more sense to choose the week coinciding with the Fourth of July holiday, when most kids are already doing something with their families,” he said.

Salem Hills baseball coach Scott Haney said that anything the UHSAA comes up with is fine with him.

“The fact is, kids who want to play are going to play, whether with a coach or at camps or in the back yard,” he said.

“To give the kids an opportunity for a vacation and to get a break is right, but we try to give our kids that anyway,” he went on.

“One reason for dead times is maybe to benefit the 2-sport, 3-sport kids, but moratoriums don’t solve that,” he said. “You can quote me that Disneyland is going to be busy as heck during that July week.”

For Amyee Hargett, the swim coach for both girls and boys at Springville High School, the only impact will be to make an already-tough job even more difficult.

“Our program is a little different,” she explained. “We only have access to the pool when we’re actually in season, between the official start and finish dates.

“Lots of other teams swim with clubs at their local pools, but that option isn’t available here,” she continued.

“Our top kids swim elsewhere, but for those who don’t swim year-round, it reduces the practice time we have relative to others even more,” Hargett added. “But, we do what we can with the time that we have.”

Lone Peak boys basketball coach Quincy Lewis thinks the changes will be a plus, at least in his sport.

“I can only speak for our program, but I think the changes are very positive and beneficial to kids,” he said.

“It gives them an opportunity to be in their own gym working with their own coach if they choose to, and that’s a positive thing,” he continued.

“For us, it doesn’t mean any more games or tournaments in the offseason; the main impact will be primarily in September, when we can do more individual work with kids to help them be better players if that’s what they want,” Lewis said.

“The dead period week in July for vacation is very positive; opening up a couple of weeks in March is also good because it gives coaches and kids more flexibility,” he added. “Overall, I think that will make for healthier schedules for everybody.”

Beky Beaton can be reached at bbeaton@heraldextra.com. Follow her on Twitter at @BeatonWrite.

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