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April 7, 2009

Practice time heavily regulated by the NCAA

By: Jimmy Robertson

Coaches and studentathletes have to make efficient use of practice time because the NCAA only allots 20 hours per week.

Allen Iverson once made it rather clear that he was not a fan of practice.

If he still played in college, he would not have to worry about extended practices.

The NCAA heavily regulates practice time and this is the focus of this month’s Compliance Corner. Over 20 years ago, the NCAA implemented policies that placed strict limits on the amount of time a team can practice. The impetus behind this was simple.

“NCAA member schools want to make sure student-athletes receive plenty of time to concentrate on academics,” Tech’s assistant director of compliance Bert Locklin said. “This is our way of making sure schools are placing an emphasis on academics and not forcing the student-athletes to practice too many hours.”

The NCAA rules don’t define “practice” per se, but limit the amount of “countable athletically related activities,” which are defined as “any required meeting, activity or instruction involving sports-related information and having an athletics purpose, held for one or more student-athletes at the direction of, or supervised by, any member or members of an institution’s coaching staff.”

NCAA regulations have limited both the number of hours per day and per week that a student-athlete may engage in athletically related activities. During the season, a student-athlete may practice no longer than four hours per day and no more than 20 hours per week – which are defined as seven consecutive days. Also, these rules mandate at least one day off per week. The day off can be any day of the week and may change from week to week. Also, a day off is not required prior to the start of classes, nor during official vacation periods (e.g. Christmas or Spring Break).

Here are some examples of what counts and doesn’t count toward the student-athletes’ daily/weekly limits:
Activities that do count toward the daily/weekly limits

  1. Practice
  2. Conditioning
  3. Weight training
  4. Discussion or review of game film
  5. Skill or technique instruction
  6. Strategy sessions
  7. Most team meetings
  8. Competition day (always counts three hours)

Activities that do NOT count toward the daily/weekly limits

  1. Voluntary activities (no coach present)
  2. Voluntary conditioning/weights
  3. Training room treatment (taping, etc.)
  4. Rehabilitation activities
  5. Travel to and from a competition site
  6. Serving as a student host
  7. Academic meetings, study hall, etc.
  8. Student Life or Compliance meetings

“These regulations are in place to protect the student-athletes,” Locklin said. “They help provide much-needed balance to their days, weeks and seasons. Without some sort of baseline rules, there could be coaches who would monopolize the student-athletes’ time and make it difficult for them to succeed academically.”

It’s worth noting that practices may not be conducted at any time following a competition except between contests, rounds or events during a multi-day or multi-event competition. Exceptions to this include softball and baseball doubleheaders, and rounds of golf in a multi-day tournament.

While the NCAA manual limits activity during the season, it allows for the opportunity for skill instruction during a particular sport’s offseason. Each sport follows a specific timetable, with the exception of football, which does not get skill instruction time (but does get 15 spring practices).

More than four student-athletes from the team may be involved in skill-related instruction with their coaches from Sept. 15 through April 15. Prior to Sept. 15 and after April 15, no more than four student-athletes from the same team may be involved in skill-related instruction with their coach or coaches at any one time in any facility.

Each athletics department monitors practice hours for each sport. At Tech, the process includes the coaches turning in daily/weekly logs of athletically related activities, including practice and competition. These logs are then signed off by a student-athlete who has been chosen to represent that team as a part of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC). Once a student-athlete has attested to the accuracy of the recording, the compliance office reviews the logs and keeps them on file.

“The monitoring system here at Virginia Tech is designed to allow the student-athletes a feeling of autonomy from the coaching staffs when signing off their schedules,” Locklin said. “By using SAAC as a forum in which to confirm these hours, the student-athletes are able to address any concerns through SAAC.”

In thinking about all this, Iverson could only wish such policies extended to the NBA as well.