.A proposal that opens up most of the year to offseason practice for high school athletics was approved Tuesday by the executive committee of the S.C. High School League.
The committee adopted the measure for the 2013-14 school year that extends the period that teams can hold out-of-season practices. The goal is to reduce illegal practices and allow school or district administration to determine how often teams hold offseason practices, officials said.
Committee member Steve Boyd suggested the measure, and it was supported by League Commissioner Jerome Singleton.
The bottom line is that coaches will be allowed more time to work with their athletes than currently allowed.
Bailey Harris, a veteran coach of basketball, cross country and track and field teams at Lexington High, saw two sides of the issue.
“I hope it won’t lead to more sports specialization among athletes,” he said. “Coaches will need to be careful not to burn their kids out, and they’re going to definitely have to be creative as far as what they do.”
But he added, “I think it will definitely eliminate some confusion about when you can practice, and it also will help with skill development to be able to get the team together and work on a skill in the offseason. There’s definitely some positives with it.”
Practice will be closedto out-of-season sports only during the first five weeks of the in-season sport.
For example, on Aug. 2, the official start of the fall sports season, only fall sports teams would be allowed to practice. But five weeks later on Sept. 7, winter and spring sports such as basketball and soccer can begin practice.
Offseason practice would again be barred in the period from Nov. 4, when winter sports begin, until around Dec. 9, and then for the two weeks immediately preceding the Feb. 3 start of the spring sports season.
Spring football practice was given a 25-day window — May 5-30, 2014 — with the first three days in helmets only and 10 of those 25 days in pads. Outside of that window, football teams would be free to hold skills camps, passing drills and other types of practice without pads or helmets during the spring and winter open practice periods.
Under the current rules, all sports are allowed 21 days of off-season practice during allotted times each year — three weeks in May for fall sports, three weeks in September for winter sports, and three weeks in November for spring sports.
Several committee members raised concerns about specialization of athletes and safety risks of year-round practice. Jimmy Huskey was concerned that the change might increase competition between scholastic programs and club, travel or AAU teams for a student-athlete’s time.
But Singleton urged the committee to take action.
“What we have now is so easy to violate, and the penalty is so harsh when this occurs,” he said. He said allowing each school or district to determine when to hold practices was the best way to meet student-athletes’ needs.
Several other local coaches contacted declined to comment because they were unfamiliar with the new policy. The League office will issue an explanation of the offseason practice policy to administrators and coaches and will go over the rules at its annual coaches’ clinic, associate commissioner Dru Nix said.