I’m not sure how long the TSSAA’s two-week dead period has been in existence, but I’m sure when the Board of Control and Legislative Council adopted the measure, it was with good intentions.
For those who aren’t aware, TSSAA makes contact between coaches and athletes in its high schools illegal for two weeks – the last week in June and first week in July (June 26-July 9 this year).
There are to be no workouts, no scrimmages, no practices, no lifting, no meetings, no instructions, no texts, no phone calls … nothing. Coaches aren’t even able to leave their facilities unlocked to allow their athletes in to get work in. They’re told to go home, enjoy 14 days away from high school athletics offseason work and be ready to get after it after we take a few days to celebrate our nation’s independence by blowing up a bunch of stuff.
But having an entire two weeks off in a row has never made sense to me.
If you’re a football, volleyball, cross country, girls’ soccer or golf coach who’s working with your team all summer, you’re probably making strides with your athletes in June as you work on fundamentals or installing new schemes or defensive sets in those first few weeks without classes getting in the way of the sport.
But then, everybody has to go home for two weeks. When you come back, how much of that muscle memory or mental work has been lost because the athletes got out of the routine of work and practice and possibly formed new habits in those two weeks?
Coaches shouldn’t require their athletes to be at practice every week in the summer without some time away with their family if they decide to take a vacation, but 14 straight days of no work can’t be good for the athletes either.
One coach suggested to me one time that two weeks off in the summer is a good thing, but they don’t need to be consecutive.
Each team has a three-week dead period immediately following the end of their season.
The football team that doesn’t make the playoffs and is done the final weekend in October has three weeks off and can come back the week of Thanksgiving (although a lot of coaches go ahead and extend that dead period to Thanksgiving because the most they’ll be in school that week is three days). If a football team makes it to the championship game and plays the first weekend in December, then their three-week dead period starts after that and essentially goes until the Christmas break, which means they probably get a five-week break (which is actually a good thing after they played 14 or 15 times in 16 weeks).
But if teams are able to stagger their dead periods after their seasons, why can’t a similar thing happen in May.
Give each team two full weeks away from work in the summer, but don’t make them consecutive.
Everyone should get the week of July 4 off since you’re probably going to take that day anyway for the holiday.
But that second week should actually come earlier.
If my school has a team that makes it Spring Fling the week before Memorial Day, then every team at that school has a dead period the following week.
If no team from a school gets out of the district tournament, then that school’s early dead period would be a couple weeks earlier.
Or the TSSAA could just say every team at every school takes two full weeks of dead period – the week of Memorial Day and the week of July 4.
But two weeks away seems like a lot when that leaves the fall sports teams five weeks before they begin playing their first games in the third week of August.
And a few years back, sports at one school in a neighboring county had to take three weeks of dead period when a coach violated a TSSAA policy, and that third week of dead period for the entire school was part of the punishment.
The football coach was not happy with the other coach that year (or possibly never again after that).
The athletes and coaches need time away from their chosen sport, and TSSAA did well way back when making sure that happened. But I wonder how many teams’ seasons have been affected in the fall when they could’ve possibly gotten off to a better start if everyone didn’t have to spend 14 days away from working with their team six weeks before the season began.
Brandon Shields is the managing editor of The Jackson Post. Contact him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSEditorBrandon or Instagram @Editorbrandon.