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Football coaches weigh in on format that gives players dead periods


Dead periods have been a part of the summer break in the N.C. High School Athletic Association for at least 10 years, according to organization officials.

The idea was to give both coaches and athletes a pause during their summer workout season while still allowing coaches to work with their own players in the offseason.

The workouts were meant to focus on conditioning in anticipation of the arrival of Aug. 1, when the starting bell for fall practice rings and athletes from every sport can return to full-scale organized practices for the upcoming season.

Currently, the dead periods fall in the month of July, the first one occurring the week of July 4 and the second during the week of the annual N.C. Coaches Association Clinic in Greensboro. This year, the clinic is scheduled July 17-19, featuring the annual East-West All-Star games along with clinic sessions over three days featuring top coaches and other experts in their fields sharing knowledge with the coaches who attend.

Of all the sports that hold summer workouts, one that the time is most precious to is football. With more athletes to train than in other sports and with the start of fall practice looming in a matter of weeks, the July dead periods come at a time when football is gearing up to go full speed for the season ahead.

CityView reached out to the 10 Cumberland County Schools senior high football coaches and asked the following questions:

  • Do the July dead periods help or hurt preparation for the official start of practice on Aug. 1?
  • How would the coaches like to change the dead periods, going so far as eliminating them if needed?

Here are their responses:

Antonio Wallace, E.E. Smith

Wallace has no problem with the current dead periods and said E.E. Smith “will continue to align with the guidelines set forth by the NCHSAA.’’

Rodney Brewington, South View

Brewington said initially the two dead periods in July were a negative because of the lost summer practice time. But having several years to adjust and moving start times for summer workouts earlier has allowed coaches to compensate.

“As long as everyone has the same restrictions, I don’t look at it as negative,” he said. “It just forces you to add more days in the spring.”

Maurice Huey, Douglas Byrd

Huey’s only complaint is he wishes the dead periods were combined into one consecutive two-week block. That was the case last year because of a change in the schedule of the East-West All-Star games.

“Having a dead period and then workouts and then another dead period hurts because we have families that go on vacations and they are not coming back only to be on another dead period,” he said.

Duran McLaurin, Seventy-First

McLaurin said he’s been dealing with the dead periods so long he doesn’t feel it really matters. But he does agree the players need a break, possibly one in June and a second one in July.

“We’ve got to have them ready so we’ll make the proper adjustments,” he said.

Johnathan Sherman, Gray’s Creek

Sherman feels the dead periods are needed, especially the one during the week of July 4. “Sometimes as coaches, we have to be reminded that our players are still in high school,” he said. “They need a break to spend with family and our assistant coaches need a break to spend time with their families.”

But Sherman added he’d like a tweak to the timing, recalling last year when the two weeks were back-to-back. “It provided a good window for families … to schedule a vacation and experience the summer.”

Sherman said the players who returned from the long holiday were energized. Then the Bears were able to hold uninterrupted drills until the official start of practice on Aug. 1.

“I am just a big fan of consistency,” Sherman said.

There are other major changes Sherman would like to see, like a bona fide spring practice season with full contact in pads. “Everyone looks good in shorts during the spring and summer months leading up to Aug. 1,” he said.

Ernest King, Westover

King doesn’t really mind the break, but he thinks the dead period the week of July 4 should be optional.

“If we can’t do outside skill work, we should be able to lift weights,” he said. “Everyone doesn’t go on vacation, and it gives our kids something to do during the break. The only week that we should have off is the coaching clinic week.”

Bruce McClelland, Terry Sanford

McClelland would like one dead period in early June and the second the week of July 4.

“We can use July 4 week as a vacation week for our players and their families,” he said. “Having two breaks broken up with a week in between is poor planning and hurts the kids as far as trying to get in shape and stay in shape.”

McClelland noted that this will be the last time the East-West All-Star football game is held during July. The 2023-24 version of the game will permanently move to December, after years of football coaches requesting the change.

“There’s no reason we can’t do the coaches clinic in early June,” he said. “One week in July would not interfere with the work we do in our program and allows for vacation.”

Brian Randolph, Jack Britt

“If planned out properly, two weeks off in July allows our entire program to stay fresh and motivated for the long season ahead of us,” Randolph said. “Our families enjoy the time away.”

Jacob Thomas, Cape Fear

Thomas shared the sentiment of multiple coaches that he doesn’t like the current situation of a week off, a week of practice, then another week off.

“I would prefer a two-week back-to-back dead period, then start back continuously into the season,” he said.

Bill Sochovka, Pine Forest

Sochovka, the dean of the Cumberland County football coaches, believes the July 4 dead week is a needed break and gives players and coaches time to spend with families.

The second week during the coaching clinic is where he’d like to see changes. He feels players should be allowed to lift weights and condition, but allow no footballs, helmets or pads.

He noted most coaches only attend the coaching clinic for the one or two days when there are sessions involving their sport. Of course, there are exceptions to that, like this year when legendary coaches Mike Krzyzewski and Roy Williams are scheduled to speak at 2 p.m. July 17.

“The current plan of being dead for a week and then on and then dead is confusing and counter-productive,” Sochovka said.

Follow Earl Vaughan Jr. on Twitter: @EarlVaughanJr

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Cumberland County, Fayetteville, sports, high school, football