Pop Warner cuts down on contact in practices

Getty Images

At a time when many NFL players are saying that the game of football is so fundamentally unsafe that they wouldn’t allow their children to play, the nation’s premiere youth football organization is taking steps to make the game safer.

Pop Warner football has announced that coaches will be required to make at least two-thirds of their practice time non-contact, and during the one-third of the time with contact, there will be no full-speed, head-on blocking or tackling drills in which players line up more than three yards apart.

“Pop Warner’s rule changes are based on research that shows that more concussions occur in practice than during games,” said Dr. Julian Bailes, chairman of the Pop Warner medical advisory board. “The impact of head-to-head contact causes the most severe concussions, so we felt it was imperative that Pop Warner take a proactive approach and limit contact in practices.”

This makes sense from a safety perspective, and it also makes sense from a football perspective: Coaches can still teach their young players proper form in blocking and tackling without allowing players to get a full head of steam by lining up more than three yards apart and running straight into each other. Players can still line up more than three yards apart for blocking and tackling drills that involve approaching an opponent from an angle, just not to run straight into each other.

Some may see this initiative as making football more soft, but the reality is it makes football more safe.

24 responses to “Pop Warner cuts down on contact in practices

  1. As a former pop Warner player, about time. My coach literally had us do a tackling drill where we line up 10 yards apart and one guy knocks the crap out of another. Essentially a blind side drill.
    Broke my collar bone and missed the entire year. I wasn’t the only one injured by this either. We had an ambulance at practice every week.

  2. Aziz à youth football coach for thé l’astre 22 yearling, I support thèse c. The smarter coaches have long since been heading in this direction, but there are an awful lot of Paleolithic coaches who do nothing but run “bull in the ring” all practice, then wonder why their kids are banged up all the time. You need to run drills that replicate game conditions, and having kids taking 15 yard runs at each other straight on doesn’t do that. It’s too bad that they have to legislate common sense, but with all that is going on they really had no choice.

  3. You’ll have a better chance of seeing proper tackling technique on the playground when those kids start seeing it on TV. NFL defense is no longer about tackling, particularly amongst linebackers and safeties. Those guys are just trying to hit people as hard as they can to break up the pass, to send them a message, or to separate the WR/RB from the ball. It hasn’t been about tackling for a while now. It’s about blowing people up and getting on Sportscenter.

  4. Hold on.. more to come. There is already one school district wanting to discontinue football all together. Typical over reaction..

  5. In other news a school district in Ohio has introduced non contact wrestling. It’s a lot like chess -player one states his move to Player two and player two must counter.

    Are you kidding me? What’s next two hand touch football. What a joke.

  6. This is excessive. I understand the safety concerns but doesn’t this make the game a little less safe? I mean, the problem isn’t contact, it’s proper technique. They shouldn’t be forcing coaches to have “non-contact” practices and should, instead, enforce proper tackling teachings amongst coaching staffs. It starts at the bottom. If the kids learn how to do it right when they start it’s just a matter of repetition. The problem is you have all of these Pop Warner coaches trying to teach these kids how to run the option, play action pass, and other complicated sets and formations. I think it’s more important to teach fundamentals at such a young age.

  7. Hope these kinds enjoy hitting the sled and driving it the length of the field cause that’s all they will be doing

  8. As a little league coach, I will do everything I can to keep my players healthy. But when this turns into
    flag football, I will leave the sport.

  9. Less overall contact in practice is a good idea at all levels.
    I have been involved in Pop Warner and I,ll tell you this new rule will be virtually IMPOSSIBLE to enforce.
    Pop Warner is not a hands on organization.Leagues and teams are filtered down to the local level. Nice idea and a good looking press release for Pop Warner.
    Yes, some coaches will now do less contact but the entire new rule will likely never be implemented on many teams.

  10. Odds are that the ignorant cynical comments critical of Pop Warner’s decision will come predominantly from people who don’t yet have children.

  11. robf2010, I could not agree with you more. I’ve been saying the same for a while. Get safeties and linebackers to tackle properly instead of going for the highlight-style knock-out blow and the game instantly becomes safer- and what it was supposed to be to begin with.

    I’ve lived/played/coached in several different communities in 3 states, and I’ve never actually come across a Pop Warner league, so I’m not sure where this ends.

  12. Just ban football and get it over with. Thats what they really all want no matter what they say. Let them stay in their rooms playing Witchcraft Immortal 4 until their thumbs bleed . The unions, the lawyers, greedy ballplayers and Goodell killed the game of football. They just dont realize it yet.

  13. sportsmeccabi says: Jun 13, 2012 6:38 AM

    As a former pop Warner player, about time. My coach literally had us do a tackling drill where we line up 10 yards apart and one guy knocks the crap out of another. Essentially a blind side drill.
    I remember this drill too. Once we both went low helmets hit first, we hit so hard everything went white and it messed with my sense of smell, I thought I could smell the hit, that’s how weird it was. Coach pulled us aside for a couple minutes then put us back in the drill. That was years ago and normal but scary now.

  14. For most coaches this shouldn’t make a difference. Any youth coach who takes any time at all to educate themselves will see a consistent stream of advice – focus on drills, limit scrimmage time, and don’t run any drills in this fashion. With limited practice time there is no sense in running any drills that don’t simulate game conditions, and you will never see two kids run straight at each other with no attempt to evade a tackle or block. Any coach who runs that type of drill is getting his nuts off by reliving what he did in high school. Makes no sense.

    Those who say there will be little to no enforcement are correct – there will be emphasis in communications to coaches, but no monitoring on a daily basis. This is where I have a problem with the rule. However, the best & worst monitoring will come from the parents. Any coach who doesn’t follow the new rules will be at risk, and rightfully so. Most of the time, however, the parents have no clue as to what we are doing, and absent any video, a complaint by a parent can put a coach unduly under the microscope.

  15. I would let my kid play football – But not pop warner. If you are any good, you can wait till 9th grade to play and you will still rise to the top.

    Why put more wear and tear on a child’s body? Most of the kids that are good at hitting at that age are just the early developing fat boys any way.

  16. easyeddie says: Jun 13, 2012 8:52 AM

    Odds are that the ignorant cynical comments critical of Pop Warner’s decision will come predominantly from people who don’t yet have children.
    What?!! Are you kidding me ? I have 5 kids and have coached all of them in some form of sport with two playing football. Here’s a clue. FOOTBALL is a contact sport and as a parent you make the decision to either allow them to play or NOT ! Make sure they have the proper equipment and also sign them up with a gym membership to train their bodies. If you don’t want to take any risks then enroll them on the high school chess team and shoot for that lucrative “Chess Scholarship.” Buncha nanby pamby “Candy-grams” !!!! It’s “Risk/Reward”, think about the risks that Archie Manning considered for his 3 boys after having his butt kicked repeatedly while running for his life in New Orleans. If anyone knew about the risks of contact football it was him but he and his wife also looked at the benefits of the game. You know what, his kids turned out alright and have made a fortune !! So don’t let you kids play any contact sports that will leave opportunities for other parents to advance their children to the next level.

  17. So basically, they are telling footballers to play softball. Too bad America is going softer and sissier everyday.

  18. I played Pop Warner from 4th – 8th grade, and I never worried about how much “contact” was in practice. In fact, the only practice sessions I truly enjoyed were the contact drills and full-speed scrimmages. If you don’t let the kids enjoy full contact sports in an organized setting, then they will do it pick-up style with no supervision or equipment.

    I played football for nearly a decade because I loved contact. I knew there were safety risks. Kids knew there were safety risks, parents knew there were safety risks. Honestly, the pampering of athletes (both youth and professional) in society is sickening… just let them play. If they don’t want to risk being injured, then they don’t have to play.

    Side note: Pop Warner shouldn’t be limiting contact during practices, they should be focusing on hosting clinics for things like proper tackling technique, which more often than not was the real cause for injury rather than “too much contact.”

  19. The only way to get good at football is by practicing football. Taking that away at the youth level now puts more on the Jr. High and High School levels, also makes the game more dangerous at those levels not knowing the feeling of contact, how to make and just as important how to take a hit.

    When I played youth football there was a weight limit, so there was no fat players, our o-lineman in 4th grade were our RB’s in HS. Even I, who was a QB from 4th grade through Junior College, I played DT in 5th grade. No one gets hurt, it’s kids running around playing football, sure there’s kids that cry because they’re soft, but they’re not really hurt. Might get the wind knocked out of you but I wouldn’t have even have been worried about being blindsided by the 6th grade version of Ray Lewis, I would have been fine.

    I had a crazy coach, grabbed me by the facemask and said what the F*** are you guys doing when we were losing the championship game, we had all the hitting drills, kids would cry when they got layed out, but never injured. Everyone was fine and is fine now later in life.

  20. Fear of lawsuits, thanks to money hungry lawyers, will have the game disappearing within 10 years.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to leave a comment. Not a member? Register now!