CALDWELL -- Ever since football returned to the College of Idaho five years, the Yotes have started the season the same way most programs have.
"They're used to doing two-a-days, and there is a psychological attachment to that," said head coach Mike Moroski.
"Last year we had six two-a-days throughout fall camp. We'd come out here in the morning and bang heads and in the evening and bang heads," recalled senior cornerback Malik Whitfield.
"Two-a-days, hell week, that's when we get ready to go," added Moroski.
That is up until this year.Before the players hit the field and before practice plans were made,
Moroski proposed a question. One that would emphasize the health of his players over the glory of the game.
He asked, "How can we make the game as safe as we possibly can?"
Over the last year, numerous studies have revealed the potential side effects of playing football. Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, better known as C.T.E, is one of them.
"I think it's the stone ages to think that we need to just hit, hit, hit, hit, hit," stated Moroski. "We can't play football like that."
"I think it's kind of ignorant not to," replied Whitfield when asked if has paid attention to the studies that have exposed the dangers of playering football. "We all know what could happen and what does happen. It's something that you consider every day when you put on the pads."
"I think you'd be dumb if you're not thinking about," said All-American safety Nate Moore. "You can't let that effect how you come out here and play, but at the same time it is a little scary. I'd be lying if I didn't think about it."
"[I love the game] enough to deal with the risk that you might get from getting concussions," continued Moore. "You love the game so much that you're will to put your body on the line."
So how do you make the game safer for those with a passion to play? Well, one way it limiting contact.
This year the NCAA passed a new rule through legislation, stating:
"A single day may include a single, three-hour, on-field practice session and a walk-through. During walk-throughs, protective equipment such as helmets and pads can’t be worn, and contact is prohibited."
A separate study showed that 58-percent of concussion actually come in preseason practices.
The Yotes, however, play at the NAIA level, and the rules restricting two-a-day full contact practices do no exist. But that didn't prevent Moroski from altering his own approach, even while other schools in the Frontier Conference keep on hitting.
"Football does have to change," Moroski stated. "That's why I want to be ahead of it. I want to be on the cutting edge. That's by responsibility to these guys (and) their families."
While the Yotes still practice in pads in the mornings, they focus on a different type of toughness in the evenings.
"In order to win, we have to be the smartest and toughest team, in the mental toughness realm," said Moroski. "We don't put on helments, we don't put on pads."
"It's less physically taxing, that's for sure. We're not banging twice a day," said Whitfield. "You feel it on your neck, your upperbody feels fine."
So far, the results have been a hit. Moroski believes the walk-thru sessions have helped the Yotes become a better mentally, mastering the playbook and their responsbilities.
"We're accomplishing a lot more than I even thought we would," Moroski said.
"I think it has almost helped us more, because the mental aspect of the game is just as important as the physical aspect," said Moore.
By hitting less, the Yotes are now gaining more between the ears, hopefully, in more ways than one.
"It's a reasonable, rational approach that I have to take," said Moroski.
"I'd say he cares about us more than other schools, other head coaches would," said Whitfield.
"Hitting for the sake of hitting just to toughen guys up is the dark ages, and coaches have to be willing to admit that," Moroski added. "I still think that football is the greatest game on earth, and I think it's getting safer ... [but] there's more to football than just hitting. It's finding the balance."
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