The Pop Warner Youth Football Program which is renowned world wide, has come out with tougher safety standards for players participating in its youth football program. They are implementing rules that will introduce limit contact drills to one-third of practice time, and ban full-speed, head-on blocking and tackling drills in which players line up more than 3 yards apart. While, this may come as a culture shock across the country to some youth football coaches, it is about time that an organization like Pop Warner is taking a leadership role in the youth sports scene to protect these young players.
The biggest benefit for the kids besides protecting their safety is that coaches are going to have make an even more of an effort than ever to drill fundamentals into their players. The reality is coming from someone like myself who spent ten years as a college equipment manager including several years in college football. The art of teaching kids how to use their hands to get off of blocks and wrap up players tackling wise is aboslutely critical to putting a young football player in a position to suceed. The other underlying issue is what type of helmet fitting training do coaches get put through. Coaches should be put in position at the Pop Warner to be trained to fit helmets at the standards that College and NFL Equipment Managers through associations like the Athletic Equipment Managers Association.
This will lessen the liability on those who are coaching and responsible for fitting helmets for these kids. Also, Nick Saban, Head Coach at the University in an ESPN article from earlier today talked about how his camp for kids age 8-13 with over 1,100 participants is all non-contact. At the college level during a typical game week you only have two days max when you are in full pads in Tuesday and Wednesday if that. Teams even as they get later in the season go full pads one day a week.
These protective rules I definitely see as a trend that will continue to grow as the impact of head-to-head hits in the sport of football at levels needs to be brought under control and with coaches like Nick Saban at Alabama being outspoken enough to be in front of this issue. I am definitely encouraged about the long-term well being of this great sport of football.