From Helfrich: “Why We Closed Practices”

I am disappointed with coach Helfrich’s decision to close practices, but it is fair that I give his side of it a bit more than I did in my earlier article.  I wish to emphasize that while I made a joke of how we were shut out whether it was Chip or Helf, the persona of MH is vastly different than that of Chip Kelly up close.  Coach Helfrich does not have the emanating personality that controls a room; by contrast he is unpretentious and was caring about us and the job we do…while he must do his.

He likes it

It was not stated as a reason, but it was very apparent that MH himself liked the closed practices because it removed a ton of other details and concerns from him and allowed him to focus on football.  I don’t like it from my perspective, but I can see how I would if I were him.

Players like it

He made a point of several times that that players liked not being on display when they are working to improve.  Open practices allow an observer to report the player’s error (while they are learning a play) on Twitter.  Many players do NOT like to read what is written about them when this is the result, and thus preferred closed practices.

We are Oregon

He stated that there ARE some things in practice that are not crucial from a play-calling strategic perspective, but those practice drills themselves are unique to us and we wish to retain our advantage for the short time that we can. is the only media to identify and explain the unusual game plans of Oregon, and he does not wish for anyone to see those until the games.  (FishDuck understands completely).

A Criminal Element

Oregon has hit the scene as big-time and thus has attracted the gambling and other criminal elements to our practices.  Eugene law enforcement agencies have stated that if Oregon has open practices to the public then certain individuals cannot be excluded, which opens Oregon up to new dangers that did not exist in the past.

Misinterpretation of Accurate Reports

Huh?  This is one that I never dreamed of…that we have had players transfer in the past because they or their parents did not understand the context of how their son was being written about.  A fictitious example?  We accurately write that WR “A” caught two passes in the scrimmage, but WR “B” caught TEN passes and looked great doing it, went up and pulled down some dandies, etc.  What was written was precisely correct, but what if the two caught by WR “A” was during “ball-control” drill at the end of the game when we are trying to run the ball and run the clock down, and throw only to make the first downs?  What if WR “B” caught all of his during a two minute drill where we are purposely trying to throw the ball and score as we did before halftime in the Fiesta Bowl?  Parents of WR “A” are infuriated that their son is not being given the same chances as others, when it was the drill, not the intention to throw more or less to another WR.  Parents of the neglected WR get riled up, get their son riled up, and a transfer is in the making over the misinterpretation of an accurate, if incomplete, practice report.

I originally wished that we could go into just a few practices for a short time, but after hearing Mark’s side (and learning a lot in the process), I am much more understanding of his position.  Let’s give him a ton of credit for taking the time to TELL us his side, to set up this meeting and have a dialogue instead of stonewalling us with indifference and disrespect as we had in the past.

Gary Breedlove Photography

Coach Helfrich

It shows me that while some things at Oregon are not going to change, the WAY we do some things are changing, and I wanted to give coach Helfrich all the credit and  respect that he gave to us.

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Charles Fischer

Charles Fischer

Charles Fischer has been an intense fan of the Ducks for thirty years and has written reports on football boards for over a dozen years. Known as “FishDuck” on those boards, he is acknowledged for providing intense detail in his scrimmage reports and in his Xs and Os play analyses. He and his wife Lois, a daughter, Christine, and their dog (Abbie) reside in Eugene, Oregon, where he has been a financial advisor for 30 years serving clients in seven different states. He does not profess to be a coach or analyst, but simply a “hack” that enjoys sharing what he has learned and invites others to correct or add to this body of Oregon Football! See More...

  • Two class acts.
    Mr. Helfrich, for making and taking the time to explain things to the press in a very respectful manner and Mr. Fischer, for passing this information on while treating Mr. Helfrich in the same, very respectful manner.
    This is a good example of how the coaches and the press should treat each other.
    Thank you both.

  • worldwidewebfoot

    I think closed practices are just fine. Much as we would like All Duck Football All the Time 24/7, there has to be time for offline preparation, training, correction, motivation, etc. outside the public eye. The “product” of the Duck football program is on full display at each Fall game when the referee blows the whistle authorizing kickoff. Only then do we as fans get to see the end result of the preparations and practice. When we go to a restaurant we do not get to tour the kitchen. When we buy sausage, or steak, we don’t get to see… oh, well, never mind. You get the idea.
    Another thought. If practices were open, how would you like to see people in sunglasses and USC or UW shirts leaning over the fence, running video cameras? I don’t think so. ” The LA Times reports that the UO Ducks seem to be running a lot of fly sweeps to #6 in practice.” Not good.

  • King$(_)7

    Charles, First of all thanks for all of the material you have provided, and I have learned quite a bit over the past three seasons. Secondly, so long as we are doing everything legally/morally I don’t care about the closed practices I care about the results on the field! The sports writers need to grow a pair, and deal with it everyone has something in their line of work to deal with thats unfair, difficult, BS, etc…. Trying to cut down the coach that berthed the WTD culture at UofO is simply blassphemes if he was in the SEC he would have been whorshipped if not more. I really don’t give two cents for these media outlets (ESPN, fox sports, oregonlive, or clownzano) trying to get a sound bite to boost their ratings. I’m happy and thankful for MH, but don’t think for a second I would hesitate to take CK if I had the choice!

    • fishduck

      Hello King,

      There seems to be a feeling among some that if I criticize Coach Kelly at all….that I wanted to see him go, glad he’s gone, etc. None of them created over 50 videos glorifying and studying him and his offense as I have, so I too, would put up with his ‘tude with the press in a heartbeat if he was still here.

      But I do think you can call things as they are; he is brilliant, won a ton for us and yet had his flaws. Some feel that if I point out anything at all—that I am disloyal and a CK hater. Wrong. I just have a bit more balanced view to the situation, and sometimes with information that can not/will not report in order to prevent meltdowns by fans or to assure no damage to our beloved Ducks.

      I can tell you right now that I went to the Oregon Coaches Clinic this last weekend and learned stuff that I absolutely cannot report to protect Oregon. Yet I learned some things that will help my analysis reports in the future that focus on things that all football teams do, and we as fans might want to learn more about it.

  • Ol’CodgerDuck


    Thank you for the explanation. In the past few years I have certainly been influenced by some of the more vocal (and larger city bound) media types into feeling ripped off as a fan because the practices have been closed. The perspective you present is fresh, and perhaps one I could have come to on my own if I had taken 2 seconds to think about it myself!

    I can really appreciate the idea of closed practices from the coach’s and player’s points of view – that being that they get more and better work done in a closed environment. I also work in a pressure packed, production based environment, except at my job customers can watch me work any time they want to. Knowing people are watching me work, especially when faced with a hard time line, doesn’t help me do a better job! in fact, more mistakes happen than normal because of the added pressure of observation.

    My desire, as a fan, is that the Ducks go undefeated every year! If closing practices helps that happen, then I am all for it!!

    Go Ducks!! WTD!!

    • fishduck

      Thank you Ol’ Codger, as I have softened my position on this enormously after hearing the perspective from Coach Helfrich from angles I did not consider. While I am much more understanding…it would be nice for a little dabs of practice to satisfy my fix for Oregon football!

      • Ol’CodgerDuck

        Charles, I do understand your sentiments, and like you can’t wait to see more Ducks football!!
        Thank you for your fantastic support of our team, and for the venue you provide that has greatly expanded my personal enjoyment of all things Ducks!!

  • maddog48

    Enough with this.

    I realize Charles was merely reporting Helfrich’s continuing Kelly’s policy of locking out the fans and media from spring practices.

    The real issue is whether these “lockouts” are reasonable. Charles always seems to want to placate the Oregon administration, hence no serious analysis as to whether these closures are reasonable.

    Any body who is familiar with recent Oregon history knows players do not universily accept that allowing the media and public into practices is counterproductive. This whole idea comes from the coaches, not the players.