On most days, people can expect to see Louisa County School Board Chairman Greg Strickland decked out in a suit and tie.
But on Friday morning, Strickland was instead wearing a striped shirt and wielding a whistle, the two signature tools of the trade for another profession of his.
Strickland, who has officiated high school football for 21 years now, spent the morning going over Virginia High School League rule changes with the Louisa Lions during the team’s practice, offering pointers on how the team can avoid costly penalties, and more importantly, injuries.
Each year, the VHSL adds new rules or revises current ones in an effort to make the game safer and more enjoyable. The focus for VHSL this year, Strickland said, centers on player safety for the estimated 1.1 million youths who play the sport in high school. Strickland dedicated a majority of his time going over how to avoid unnecessarily rough moments in the sport, such as horse-collar penalties and reckless, headfirst tackles.
“It ties back to the players,” Strickland said of his visit afterwards. “These are student-athletes. It provides an educational opportunity to say that, yes, this is a contact sport, but we need to do it safely.”
“I think it’s really good,” Louisa head coach Mark Fischer said of Strickland’s appearance. “Kids hear certain things from us over and over again, but if you hear it from someone in that capacity, it comes to roost a little better.”
Strickland spent about an hour at the practice. During the early going, Strickland went over formational regulations with Fischer, and worked individually with players on fundamental aspects of the game such as developing proper blocking technique. Strickland frequently cited situational examples to demonstrate what officials are looking for and what constitutes a penalty.
To read the entire story, see the Aug. 14 edition of The Central Virginian.