Youth football rules undergo drastic changes

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — Dramatic changes are coming to youth football in an effort to make the game safer for children.

USA Football, which oversees youth football, has created a new football format it is calling ‘modified tackle.’

8News reporter Matthew McClellan caught up with one local football coach and specialized trainer, who said the new rules could prevent trips to the emergency room and keep youth football growing.

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“I’ve been trained with (player safety program) Heads Up Football as a master trainer to talk to coaches about safety habits and also proper techniques,” Hermitage High School football coach Patrick Kane said. “You want to keep your head out of contact so we emphasize tackling with the shoulder.”

Enrollment is said to be down over the past few years over fears the sport can be dangerous for kids.

“A lot of the time, it’s the first time they’re getting exposed to the sport,” Kane told 8News.

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Modified tackle will reportedly more closely resemble flag football.

“The goal is to make this sport better and safer,” Kane said.

The changes include a smaller field measuring 40-by-35 yards and requiring teams to drive the length of the field on a fresh possession.

The modified version would also feature fewer players on the field. Coach Kane said he believes reducing the number of players would be a positive change.

“With smaller teams of seven or eight people, they’ll get the opportunity to try a lot of positions, which I think is important in development,” Kane said.

The modifications would also eliminate special teams, like kicking and punting, in favor of a rotation system.

“It’s going to make them better players from having knowledge of each position,” Kane said.

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The new format would also eliminate the three-point stance. Plus, coaches will have to make sure players of equal size will be lined up against each other.

“Most parents want their child to participate in something they enjoy, but they also want them to be safe at the same time so it’s a win on both sides,” Kane told 8News.

The ideas are part of a pilot program that will be tested in a few cities before they are evaluated for full roll out.

This is a developing story. Stay with 8News online and on air for the latest updates.

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