We want to see the game of youth football progress into a safer and greater sport. The USA Football proposed rule changes, which will be run as a test pilot program, will not get us to that point.
Here are the proposed rule changes followed by our thoughts:
- Smaller/narrower playing field. The new proposed rules, as reported by USA Today, will change size of the playing field to 40 yards in length x 35 yards in width (a standard football field width is 53 1/3 yards). The reasoning behind this may be that a smaller field will help to reduce the speed generated by youth football athletes. However, it will likely increase contact, and the amount of hits per game. Coverages are spread out with a bigger and wider (standard) football field, running in space translates to arm tackles rather than big hits.
- From 11 on 11, to 7 on 7 players on field. This will take much of the strategy out of tackle football, and how the game of youth football is played will drastically change. Less kids on the playing field means more kids on the sidelines. If you have a full team of 20 kids, it will certainly impact playing time for many of the athletes. This could eventually be discouraging, and could lead to less participation.
- Rotating positions (mandated). This will force athletes to play out of position. Having a smaller athlete out of position, due to this rule, could potentially be an injury risk.
- Same size players match up against each other. On paper, this makes sense- in reality, if two athletes are the same size but one kid is ultra aggressive and/or stronger, and the other kid is not, it would be a clear disadvantage (and again an injury risk).
- Elimination of Special Teams. A key component of strategy of a youth football game is special teams play. In most instances of youth football, onside kickoffs are common, so there are less full speed impacts.
- Two coaches on field. Instruction up to 9 years old, this rule is ok. Kids play the sport to learn and appreciate the game of football. With two coaches on the football field guiding players, this will likely slow the pace of the game to a crawl. The ability for kids to retain what they learn may be impacted if a coach is on the field.
These proposed rule changes have come to light as a response to the perceived idea that concussions are rampant in youth football, a notion that is just not true. A trained and safety certified coaching staff as well as continued improvement of league rules (such as Pop Warner’s limited contact in practice rule) will help advance youth football into a safer sport. As will technology and the advancement of equipment.
What are your thoughts on these rules? Comment below.