Older But Lighter Rules in Pop Warner
In the Pop Warner Youth Football League and in the American Youth Football League the teams with the most older but lighters will usually win. Older but lighters are kids that are playing a year older but are lighter than the required weight. I will use Pop Warner as an example because I have coached many years in PW. The level I coach is the peewee level (ages 10-12). Peewee football players that are ages 10-11 have to be no more than 130 pounds. 12 year old players are older but lighters and have to be no more than 110 pounds. Some older but lighters are 2 years older than some of their competition. This means they are more developed physically and mentally (even if they are lighter than the 11 year old players). The 10 year old players don’t fair very well against the 12 year old players. This is how kids get hurt. I have coached every single age level in Pop Warner and the OL loaded teams tend to be more successful.
If you were to look at the teams that struggle and compare them to the dominate teams in a league, you will probably see the dominate teams are loaded with older but lighters. I will be the first one to tell you that coaching does make a difference. Good coaches will at the very LEAST have their kids prepared and competitive every single game. My teams are competitive every year, regardless of how many older but lighters we have. BUT! It will usually be tough to beat a team that is loaded with older but lighters. During elementary and middle school years, the older but lighter kids have a clear advantage over teammates and opponents. They are usually bigger, stronger, and faster.
I believe that good coaching and scouting can help you win and at the very least be competitive against these older but lighter filled teams. I have roughly 6 older but lighters every singe year, give or take. Even with only 6 or so OLS, we usually make the playoffs and at the very least have a competitive/winning season. Good coaching schemes and game planning/scouting can win games against loaded older but lighter teams (teams with 10+ OL). But, let’s be real- the team that has the most older but lighters will win more often than not.
I am not a big fan of the “older but lighter” rules at the older age levels because organizations tend to abuse the rule. Some programs will stack one or two teams to try and win the championship. These stacked teams will roll over weak competition on their way to the playoffs. With that said, you will see many inferior coaches get bailed out by their older but lighter athletes. But, the poorly coached teams will tend to lose in the playoffs or in the regional competitions when they face other teams with just as many or more older but lighters. When the playing field becomes level, that is when coaching makes the biggest difference. I understand the logic behind the rule. There are some undersized kids that benefit from the rule. In my 11 years coaching in Pop Warner and my 2 years coaching in AYF, many teams abuse this rule. I feel kids should play in the age group they are in. If a kid is in 6 grade, he should be competing against other 6 graders.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of Pop Warner and American Youth Football. I have been coaching in those leagues my entire career. There are many kids that do benefit from these older but lighter rules. These rules were created for the safety of the kids.
What are your thoughts? Tell us in the comments…