High school football coaches put premium on safety of their players
TribLIVE Sports Videos
While one local team deals with tragedy, the PIAA and area football coaches are still hard at work with player safety as the top priority.
Most football teams around Western Pennsylvania are in the process this week of completing their state-mandated heat acclimation days, while at the same time, the death of Burrell sophomore Noah Cornuet on Wednesday has caused many to reexamine player safety precautions.
A medical examiner confirmed Thursday that the death of Cornuet — who collapsed during stretching at the start of Burrell's practice — was caused by a tumor on his heart's atrial septum and not related to any exertion caused by playing football.
But even with football-related activities not being named as a cause in Cornuet's death, area coaches have made it clear to their players that all safety procedures will be followed closely during their preseason workouts.
“We always err on the side of caution,” Washington coach Mike Bosnic said. “You're trying to build them up to put full pads on and be able to practice. Every day, you're trying to get them in better shape and more conditioned.”
The PIAA's heat acclimation policy mandates three consecutive days of outdoor workouts up to three hours in length. Helmets and shoulder pads are worn the first two days, and full pads may be worn the third day. No contact is allowed during the three-day period, and no player may participate in contact drills until completing the three days.
“The whole object is to be careful and ease kids into it. We're out there for three days in helmets and shoulder pads, but it's all for safety,” Highlands coach Sam Albert said.
Other summer workouts are voluntary by rule, so many coaches use the three-day period as a chance to start mandatory practices early, even if hitting is prohibited.
The most important part for teams is preparing players to go live when camp begins Monday, but many coaches have found different uses from a football standpoint.
“It must be noncontact drills, so basically we do a lot of agility work, passing, catching and all of the special teams. I think it works pretty well for us,” Thomas Jefferson coach Bill Cherpak said.
Bethel Park coach Jeff Metheny added: “It's scaled-down in length, but I think everybody does what they're accustomed to, which is lifting, running and on-the-field work.”
Some coaches, such as Franklin Regional's Greg Botta, have their own fitness requirements above the three-day period before camp begins. Botta attaches a simple goal — a 300-yard run with target times based on position — for players to reach.
“They have to do it under a certain time. If they don't pass, they come back two days later and try again,” Botta said. “The reason for the test is to see if the player had done what he was supposed to during the summer. I had 16 who didn't pass the first day. That was down to six on the second try.”
Another change is the style of conditioning work that some coaches have their team undergo.
While many teams wrap up practice with running — width-of-the-field sprints affectionately known as “gassers” are a mainstay — others have borrowed from a coaching method more akin to basketball and soccer, in which players are kept in motion throughout practices.
“We don't do a lot of conditioning. We set up the drills so the kids get their conditioning during practice,” Kittanning coach Frank Fabian said. “We want to get our running in during the practice, not set aside time for it.”
“We're constantly in motion,” Freeport coach John Gaillot said. “There are short bursts of speed, and we try to have water breaks every five to eight minutes.”
No matter the method, protecting players' health is the first and foremost concern of coaches.
While a tumor such as the one that led to Cornuet's death would have needed to be detected by a medical professional, the consensus among coaches is that they will do whatever it takes to avoid preventable tragedies.
“It makes sense that anything we can do to make safety the No. 1 consideration, everybody's in,” Seneca Valley coach Don Holl said. “All of my coaching colleagues and everyone I know in football agrees. Whatever you can do and everything you do, you've got to do it.”
Staff writers Andrew Erickson, Ray Fisher, Doug Gulasy, Paul Schofield and Bill Beckner Jr. contributed. Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- HS highlight reel: Pair of title games to be on tape delay Saturday
- Gorman: Thomas Jefferson quarterback Kelley savors run after injuries, illness
- Strong run game lifts Thomas Jefferson into WPIAL AAA title game
- PIAA Class AA first-round preview: Karns City vs. Bedford
- South Fayette, Aliquippa form unique traditions for Thanksgiving Day
- Through the Years: Leechburg, Oakmont won WPIAL titles a half-century ago
- High school notebook: New classes put football finalists on the move next season
- Seneca Valley football team hopes to improve in offseason
- Ligonier Valley bows out of football playoffs
- Jeannette junior Swinton says ‘football is my life’
- Ligonier Valley bows out of District 6 postseason