With their jerseys on, the defense and offense square off on the 50-yard line to run a play during practice. After the snap, the quarterback steps back and throws the ball to his open wide receiver. The coaches blow the whistle, signaling that the first practice of the day is over.
A commonality among nearly all collegiate football programs is two-a-day practices during training camps, but that is no longer the case.
In April, the Division III Management Council voted to eliminate two-a-day practices in football, which is effective immediately. That’s also the same for Division I and II football programs, starting this season.
“It’s [two-a-day practices] been a standard in football for a long time,” head Wartburg football coach, Rick Willis, said. “But, a standard that has been adjusting.”
The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) should not have eliminated two-a-day football practices, because it hinders a team’s ability to adequately prepare for the upcoming season.
The decision is based off of new data from the NCAA-Department of Defense CARE Consortium.
The data revealed that football teams need to allow adequate recovery time from contact practices and competitions, which is seen as an effort to curb injuries.
At Wartburg College, the typical two-a-day practice schedule is an early morning practice, a rest period in the afternoon and another practice in the early evening, with a short team meeting before. But, that was only the case every other day.
By having two-a-day practices, football players were given a substantial amount of time in between practices to rest, look over plays and prepare for their next practice.
“I think two-a-day practices allow us to get a lot done on the field, which is what we need,” Wartburg football player, Griffin Brennecke, said. “It kind of gives our minds and bodies a break.”
Before the first game of every season, Division III teams are allowed to hold 25 practices. Each of those practices are needed to learn plays, create special teams and solidify positions. With the new rule of no two-a-day practices, teams will likely lose five to six practices on the field.
“We will have less practices in the fall to get players and teams ready to play,” Willis said. “Your ability to teach and prepare players is less.”
The perception of two-a-day practices is that players are playing full out, contact football during each practice. That really isn’t the case.
Wartburg implements a thud component into their contact practices, which means players make contact, but do not physically tackle players.
Starting this season, the Wartburg football program will be having hour-long walk-throughs, in addition to daily practices. The biggest struggle of that practice schedule is going to be adjusting to less time on the field, because they will be losing a substantial amount of practices.
Those practices were used to create a positive, driven team environment, while also teaching players on all levels the rules of the game and plays.
Unfortunately, the NCAA snatched up that opportunity by eliminating two-a-day football practices, out of the safety for their players.
“It seems like the sport of football is changing to become more player focused,” Brennecke said. “Whether it is protecting us or not, you can really see that people are trying to make the effort to do so.”
As an effort to look out for the safety of collegiate football players, the NCAA did a good job. But, the NCAA also took away valuable opportunities for their athletes, hindering them from preparing for the upcoming season.
With the ability to learn plays and create a strong bond among teammates, two-a-day football practices have a lot to offer. It’s a shame the NCAA couldn’t see that before they made their decision.