YardBarker- This is some rather huge news regarding youth football in the United States. The nation’s oldest youth football organization, Pop Warner, announced on Thursday that it has eliminated kickoffs in its three youngest divisions starting this fall.
“The ban will take effect in the three youngest divisions when the season begins this fall. The organization said it’s aimed at significantly reducing the number of full-speed, head-on impacts in games. After the season, Pop Warner said it will evaluate the results and consider implementing the kickoff ban in older divisions as well.”
We are talking about children at the height of their cognitive development continually finding themselves put in unsafe situations on the football field.
In lieu of kickoffs, the ball will be placed at the 35 in three different levels of Pop Warner football with the age groups ranging from 5-10 years old being impacted.
“We are constantly working to make the game safer and better for our young athletes, and we think this move is an important step in that direction, ”Pop Warner’s executive director Jon Butler said in a statement. “Eliminating kickoffs at this level adds another layer of safety without changing the nature of this great game.”
Listen, I don't care if Pop Warner bans kickoffs. The kids that are out there running around with their heads in the clouds certainly don't care if Pop Warner bans kickoffs. The only people that truly care that Pop Warner is banning kickoffs need therapy, because they are clearly trying to live vicariously through their 8 year old child who they have convinced themselves is the second coming of Devin Hester. So no, I don't think this is a big deal, but I just don't like being lied to.
Pop Warner should get rid of kickoffs, but they should also be forthright as to why they are doing so. Tell us your banning kickoffs because you don't want to deal with the legal and financial ramifications of a kid getting seriously hurt. Don't tell me that all the sudden - after years of having boys mindlessly sprint full speed at each other - you JUST realized that it's not the safest play in the world. This doesn't ensure the long term health of our youth. All it really does is put the onus on the next level of coaches to teach kids how to safely handle a kickoff return. Why not instill that knowledge when these kids are still too small to inflict real, life threatening injuries on each other, instead of pushing it down the line for other people to do it when they are bigger, stronger, and capable of causing more damage? I'll tell you why. Because even one child dealing with a head injury at such a young age is a horrible, horrible look for a youth sports organization. Protection is a hell of a reason to ban kickoffs, but make no mistake that this decision protects Pop Warner just as much as it protects it's participants.