Sign Up Your Kids for Youth Football

Depending on where you live in the United States, your child has multiple options for playing youth football. When you sign up your child for youth football, you need a copy of his birth certificate and a current report card. (Most leagues won’t enroll students who are failing in school.) Also, examine your health insurance and make sure that your child is covered for all types of injury.

If you can’t find sign-up information, check with your town or city’s recreation department. Most know how to locate league officials and know where teams are practicing.

Pop Warner

The nation’s largest youth football organization is Pop Warner Little Scholars, Inc., which is the legal name for Pop Warner Football. In 2010, Pop Warner had leagues in 42 states and several countries. More than 400,000 boys and girls (the girls take part in cheer and dance teams) participated in those programs.

Pop Warner has the following rules:

  • Stringent safety rules, including an age-weight schematic. This system ensures maximum safety because players are evenly matched in size and physical maturity.

  • A no-cut rule, which means players don’t have to try out. “First-come, first-on” is how Pop Warner operates.

Pop Warner has different age-group divisions for players ages 5 to 16. Players move up to different divisions until they reach the Bantam division in which the 16-year-olds play. In many parts of the country, school districts no longer have junior high/middle school football programs, and youth leagues fill that void.

To find a Pop Warner program in your area, check your local phone book; e-mail the organization at mailto:football@popwarner.com; write to Pop Warner Little Scholars at 586 Middletown Blvd., Suite C-100, Langhorne, PA 19047; call 215-752-2691; or visit the Pop Warner website.

Punt, Pass & Kick

More than 3 million boys and girls ages 6 to 15 participated in the 2009 NFL Punt, Pass & Kick competition. Since this competition began in the early 1960s, numerous participants — including quarterbacks Dan Marino, Drew Bledsoe, Brett Favre, Troy Aikman, and Randall Cunningham — have gone on to play in the NFL.

Kids compete by age group in this competition, which is offered on the local level in every NFL city. The competition is then regionalized, and those winners compete at the end of the NFL season in a prearranged NFL city.

Every young athlete is judged on how far he or she throws a pass, punts a football, and kicks a football off a tee. Points are awarded by distance and accuracy, and most winners have won one if not two of the three categories. For more information, visit the NFL PPK website.

The NFL’s USA Football Player Academy

Concerned because junior high and high school sports programs were being cut back or eliminated, the NFL started its USA Football Player Academy program in 1999. The purpose of this program is to teach football skills to boys ages 12 to 18. The NFL selects local high school coaches to run the programs and provides the coaches with 60 hours of instructional training. The emphasis of the programs is on basic football skills, and the boys are taught how to play every position, no matter what their weight or size.

The NFL Junior and High School Player Development programs are offered in all 50 states. To find out more about them, go to the USA Football Player Academy website.

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