728 x 90 unit

It's Time to Sign Up for Pop Warner

Registration is open now for the Fall 2009 Pop Warner season!  It seems really early, since practice doesn’t start for more than 6 months, but the best activities seem to fill up the fastest.

When my son told me he wanted to play tackle football, like many moms, I resisted.  I signed him up for flag football instead.  It took him and his dad about two years to convince me to let him play tackle.  My husband’s best argument was that if he was that serious about football (which he still is), he should learn how to play safely while he’s young.  So I finally gave in.

Pop Warner is a great program.  They’re very well organized and very large.  Although I’m sure there are some exceptions, my experience has been that the volunteer coaches are great – not just at coaching football, but at being leaders and role models for kids.  When my son first started playing with them, I was surprised at how many rules there were.  As things progressed I realized that the rules were needed to make sure that it remained a kid-friendly activity.

First, a child has to maintain a certain GPA in order to participate.  My first thought was, “These are little kids.  How much should grades matter?”  But they practice a lot of hours a week, and if a kid lets his grades slip, this program will take him away from schoolwork too much.  Besides, they might as well get used to this rule before high school.

Next, there are very strict, very detailed rules about which level a kid can play at.  It’s a combination of age and weight and there are no exceptions.  Why?  Because it’s tackle football and if you have kids of different sizes playing together, someone is going to get hurt.  There are some kids who fall into a gray zone (like someone who is small for his age), and they might have a choice between two levels.

There are explicit rules about how much the kids can practice.  Pop Warner allows a lot of practice hours every week, and coaches take advantage every minute so they can compete with other teams who do the same.  Apparently they’ve had some people try to push the envelope in the past, because now they specify exactly what constitutes a practice.  Want to get the team together for calisthenics but not call it a practice?  Nope.  How about inviting the players over for a ‘birthday party’ at which they’ll play ball, but don’t count it in your practice time?  That won’t work either.  Thank goodness.  If they didn’t have limits, the team who practiced the most would win.  No one would have a fighting chance if they didn’t commit way too many hours to football.

Lastly there are serious and specific rules about sportsmanship, and a lot of them apply to the parents!  If a parent does something unsportsmanlike from the sidelines, the head coach (a volunteer!) will be fined personally.  Yep.  Apparently this is what it takes to keep some over-competitive parents in line, and it seems to work.  They also make a big deal of sportsmanship with the kids.  The trophy for the team that wins the top sportsmanship award is almost as big as the trophy for the team that wins the championship!

Although it took a while for me to come around, I know that the Pop Warner program has been good for my son.  He’s already signed up for next season!