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Thorson thinks IHSA measures already protect football players

Published: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 9:06 p.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, March 21, 2013 4:12 p.m. CDT

Morris State Representative Pam Roth (R-Morris) knew she was going to be asked to vote in Springfield on Wednesday. While the Illinois General Assembly had more on its agenda than House Bill 1205, she did her best to get a consensus from her constituents before heading downstate to weigh in on matters. One of the measures being discussed on Wednesday was what has become known as the Football Practice Hitting Limitation Act. If made law, it would eliminate full contact hitting by youth and high school teams in the offseason and then be limited to just twice a week during the season. Additionally, another detail in Bill 1205 includes mandatory concussion training for coaches. On Monday afternoon, Roth was at Morris Community High School, along with administration and football coaches from Morris, Minooka, Coal City, Seneca and all throughout Roth's 75th district. "There were probably about 25 people there," Roth said. "I felt it was important for me to articulate what was important to them. I thought it would be good to talk to them as their representative." Morris Athletic Director George Dergo said that Roth contacted the high school to see if it was available to hold a town-hall style event at that location and he said they were happy to oblige. "She (Roth) contacted (Superintendent) Dr. (Pat) Halloran and we talked and that's when it was decided to have it over here," Dergo said. "She wanted to present to us what was out there and wanted the opinions of the coaches. It was kind of like an open forum." Dergo said that all the local coaches and athletic directors were there, including youth football coaches since all would be impacted by the potential law. "I think we all agree that making the game safer is a good idea for the kids," Morris football coach Alan Thorson said. "But it sounds like there is a lot of details with this (Bill 1205) that need to be worked out still. It's something that's being pushed and right now we're thinking it's not a good thing."  So much so that Roth put out a statement on Tuesday, a day before the bill, presented by State Representative Carol Sente (D-Lincolnshire),  was introduced to the Elementary and Secondary Education Committee on Wednesday.  "I understand that Representative Sente is trying to protect kids; my own son is in youth football," it said. "However, the General Assembly should not be stepping over the IHSA by intervening in school sports, no matter how good the intentions of the sponsor might be." Dergo said that the rules put in place by the IHSA pretty much already do what Sente's bill is trying to make law. "The IHSA already implements the things we already follow now," he said. In a statement, IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman also says as much. "Risk minimization is a high priority for the IHSA and we feel that we have proven at a state and national level that we have effective systems in place to institute quality measures to maximize the safety of our student-athletes," he said. "Our Association is well-positioned to develop responsible measures to ensure participant safety, just as we have done in the past." Dergo said that for quite some time now that Morris basically uses the contact days that it gets over the summer to be used as close to the start of the school year as possible. This because MCHS often times opens later than other IHSA schools and the extra padded time is needed the most then. "That's when they have the live-gos," he said. "That's when we use it in the summer, when we have our camp. But this bill would eliminate that." "What it would do is take away the option of us being able to help the kids that need to learn how to tackle," Thorson said. "In season, we basically only tackle twice a week anyway, so that wouldn't be that big of a deal, but in the summer is where it would hurt us - when we get into our two-a-days." Thorson said that in the 12 years he has been in coaching that he can't remember a kid being severely hurt in the summer. He also mentioned that it seemed like a consensus of the people at the football summit was also in agreement. "The majority of us shared the same opinion," he said. "Basically everyone seems to think that the IHSA is already taking the right steps in order to protect the kids, whether it's concussions or anything else."

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