In addition to the major announcement that the NCAA was lifting regulations on how much food universities were allowed to provide for their student-athletes, several other major rules changes were approved by the Division I membership on Tuesday. While no rules become official until the Board of Directors meet on April 24th, that is generally more of a rubber-stamp once the membership has voted.
The other four changes voted upon were to:
- Require strength and conditioning coaches to be certified from a nationally accredited certification body;
- Require a school staff member certified in CPR, first aid and arterial external defibrillation to be present at all physical, countable athletic activities;
- Reduce the penalty for a first positive test for street drugs during championships; and
- Require football players to rest for at least three hours between practices during the preseason. Film review and team meetings will be allowed during this period.
The latter of those does not impact swimming, but the other three will.
Require Strength & Conditioning Coaches to Be Certified
For the first time, strength & conditioning coaches will be required to have a certification from a ‘nationally accredited certification body.’ While at major universities, this is generally a standard anyway, this is an important step in ensuring the professionalism and ongoing education of these strength & conditioning coaches. The risks of injury in a weight room setting are huge, and ensuring that the coaches responsible for that work are properly certified is important.
Being nationally accredited will also allow these coaches access to ongoing educational programs (and requirements), which should help both their professionalism and their effectiveness.
These certifications are not necessarily hard to get, and are a solid baseline expectation for those hoping to work at the Division I level.
Require a School Staff member Certified in First Aid to be Present at Practices
In many cases, this requirement is already handled in the case of swimming, as lifeguards are required to be present at most pools. However, this is not so at all pools, and there are still cases of even college level athletes (most recently, a water polo player) passing away during an intense swim workout. It’s not clear who was present at that practice, or if anything could have been done, as that information has not been released yet, however it is a reminder that even elite athletes need these safeguards in place.
A reminder of the need to make this rule came at the men’s NCAA Championships, when I literally had a fan turn around and say to me with a grin that “these are the best athletes in the world and they still think that they need to have two lifeguards on duty.” That was a sign that these understandings are not yet universal, and the NCAA’s focus on such things will only continue to shed more light upon the dangers.
Reducing Suspensions for ‘Street Drugs’
With the attitude in the United States continuing to shift on the usage of certain street drugs, like marijuana, the NCAA’s statement clearly shows that they are responding to that shift in attitude. Now, a positive test during a championship (the only place where the NCAA does regular drug testing) will have a reduced penalty from a full season to half-a-season. The NCAA specifically says that “Street drugs are not performance-enhancing in nature, and this change will encourage schools to provide student-athletes the necessary rehabilitation.”
While the NCAA’s view still implies the belief that these street drugs are not in the best interests of their athletes’ health, they’ve shifted the focus from punitive to rehabilitative. They’ve also stated that they specifically believe that marijuana is not “performance-enhancing” in nature, in sharp contrast to the belief of the World Anti-Doping Association.