The Virginia High School League's executive committee will consider a proposal to eliminate out-of-season practices in high school sports.
If approved, teams would be unable to practice outside their season. Weight lifting and conditioning would still be allowed.
For years, teams weren't allowed to practice in the offseason, until the VHSL legalized year-round practicing in in 2011. High school athletes specializing in one sport has become increasingly popular the past decade.
When the VHSL allowed out-of-season practices, they followed the rationale that if a baseball player wants to focus on his sport 12 months a year, he's going to do it either on campus with his high school team or off it with a travel team or a private coach. Why not let his high school coach work with him if both the player and coach are willing?
Year-round practice – or nearly year-round – has become standard for many programs around the area. The Hanover baseball and Highland Springs girls basketball team are just two that meet almost every month of the year. Nearly every football team in the area practices or trains year-round.
But there have been negative effects, according to the proposal, which was submitted by Class 2, Region C, a group that includes no Richmond-area schools.
"Our students and coaches are being stretched too thin," the proposal states. "Now a good coach can only coach one sport. Back in the day, we used our coaches for multiple sports."
The proposal claims that schools are hiring coaches from outside the school system who aren't able to discipline their kids, leading to an increase in fights and ejections.
Specialization is blamed for an increase in injuries. Throwing a baseball year-round has been linked to the increase of elbow injuries among teenagers.
Injuries in football are up, too. According to the National High School Sports-Related Injury Surveillance System, the rate of injury in high school football in 2008 was 3.65 per 1,000 athlete-exposures. By 2017, that number had climbed to 4.36, and the never-ending training schedule has something to do with it, said Dr. Douglas Cutter, the medical director for HCA Virginia Sports Medicine.
“These high school kids are no longer high school kids,” Cutter told The Times-Dispatch in November. “They’re not little guys. They’re harder, bigger and faster than ever before. They’re hitting really hard. This is not the same sport it was 10 years ago.”