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In Fresno, School Officials Weigh Football, Student Needs

Jan 29, 2013

Fresno High School (file photo)
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The way Fresno high school football coaches run offseason training this spring and summer will be different than in any training season prior. The reason: offseason tackling has become a major no, no.

In an attempt to decrease the number of football related injuries among Valley youngsters, mainly concussions, the Fresno Unified School District enacted a new policy last week to ban full contact during the offseason.

So what does this mean for Valley football players?

Tackling or hitting won’t be allowed in practice, at scrimmages or at football camps from December through July.  Even though tackling in the offseason has been a regular practice at the high school level.

Bullard High School Head Football Coach Don Arax said he supports the district’s decision fully.

“The bottom line on this is that we have to be proactive on this issue,” Arax said. “This issue’s not going away, there’s a real threat to the future of the game. It’s not like when I played or even 10 years ago where if a kid got a concussion, he took a few days off and then was right back on the field. We want to take care of our kids as best we can.”

The decision to stop contact during the offseason is a first for the Fresno area.  The policy comes after a study of former NFL players was in September 2012 by the journal Neurology finding that players are unusually disposed to die from degenerative brain disease, which may be caused by concussions and repeated blows to the head.

The study has caused alarm over whether contact football during the offseason is necessary at the high school or collegiate levels. Even President Barrack Obama chimed in on the topic last week in an interview with the magazine The New Republic saying that if he had a son he wouldn’t allow him to play football and that he fears for the wellbeing of college football players.

Chris VanEs, a parent of a football player at Bullard High School in Fresno, said he’s glad the decision was made. VanEs’ son, Tanner, was a victim of a concussion last season.

“It’s not something that you can control or something you can go and fix or get taped up and go back in there,” VanEs said. “It’s a serious injury and he wanted to go back out there, but he knew he couldn’t and it could cause him a lot more harm not just to sports, but his future in general.”

Arax said that he doesn’t expect the policy to affect his team in any adverse way: “I think it’s a good decision and I don’t think it’s going to hurt the level of play.”

But Arax pointed out that he thinks the initial policy is just the beginning for regulations to come to high school football in Fresno.