Each sport has a 24-week season during which the intuition’s teams (varsity, junior varsity or freshman) may conduct practices and competitions. Here are a few key points for coaches when establishing the 24-week season:
- A week is defined as Monday (12:00 a.m.) through Sunday (11:59 p.m.).
- The NAIA does not impose mandatory start dates or dead periods.
- The 24-week season applies on a sport basis. Every team within that sport (varsity, junior varsity and freshman) has the same 24-week season.
- A single practice or competition, involving as few as one team member, will constitute one of the 24 weeks permitted.
- A sport can have no more than three break periods during the 24-week season.
Summer vs. Academic Year
Any practices or competitions during the academic year (August 1st through May 15th) must count toward a sport’s 24-week season. Frequency of play, practice and scheduling during the summer is governed by each member institution and not the NAIA. Coaches may conduct team practices and competitions with continuing students during the summer, provided the institution does not have rules against such activities. Continuing students are not required to be enrolled to practice or compete with the team during the summer.
Incoming freshman and transfers may only practice or compete with an institution's team during the summer if one of the following guidelines is satisfied:
- the student is enrolled full-time (as determined by the institution) in summer coursework
- the student is enrolled in at least 12 institutional credit hours for the upcoming fall term
A prospective student who does not meet either of these requirements may not practice or compete with the institution's team until the team begins its 24-week season during the academic year.
What constitutes a practice?
A practice is any activity organized and/or directed by any member of the coaching staff in which either (a) appropriate equipment is used or (b) instruction and/or evaluation of the athlete takes place.
Here are some activities that are considered a practice:
- Film sessions involving a coach and one or more student-athlete
- Walkthrough drills, regardless of the use of equipment
- Individual skills workouts (batting practice, putting lessons, etc.) involving a member of the coaching staff
- Open gyms that are closed to the public and attended by a member of the coaching staff
- Sport specific activity classes only available to invited students
Weight training and conditioning activities that occur during the academic year are not considered practice if the team or individual does not utilize equipment associated with that sport.
Does postseason play count in the 24-weeks?
Practice activities are exempt from the 24-week calculation when they occur between a sport’s deadline for postseason qualification and a team’s participation in its final contest in NAIA-approved postseason. The sport's deadline for postseason qualification is the assigned date by which national championship entries must be submitted or conference, A.I.I., and unaffiliated grouping qualifications must conclude. These dates are listed in the coaches' manual for each sport.
Once teams are selected for NAIA-approved postseason, institutions not selected for the NAIA-approved postseason must cease practice activities or comply thereafter with the restrictions of the 24-week rule. Teams selected to participate in NAIA-approved postseason must count all activities at the conclusion of its postseason participation.
What is a break in the 24-week season?
Each sport is allowed no more than three break periods during the 24 weeks. A break is any week (Monday 12:00 a.m. through Sunday 11:59 p.m.) or series of consecutive weeks in which no practice or competition occurs. Scheduled breaks for the institution that meet the definition (such as Christmas vacation) must be counted as one of the three allowable breaks if no practice or competition occurs.