View Mobile Site

Longer days, safety hazards ahead for youth football league

Text Size: Small Large Medium
POSTED May 22, 2014 12:44 a.m.

From the time I was 6 years old rolling around in the mud behind the bleachers at my brother’s football games I wanted to play football.

In the summer of 1967 I got my wish.

The best way to describe my appearance at the time was “roley-poley.” I was 9 years old and one week late coming out for Pop Warner because I had been on the East Coast with my mother visiting her relatives. In addition to being the youngest one out there – a mistake had been made when my birth date had been checked and I should not have been allowed to play – I was the dictionary definition of soft.

Things did not start well for me. I was in fifth grade and there were seventh graders who had played for two or three years and beat the hell out of me on a routine basis. I went home crying, but my dad would not let me quit. He told me I had to stick it out since I said I wanted to play but that I did not have to play any more after that season.

In 1966 we moved from Eureka to Redding, and that first football game was to be played back in Eureka – well, Arcata to be exact. I was so excited to be going “home” to play that first game. By the time I took the field in Arcata, I was first string. I was one of two offensive guards used to run in plays which I thought was kind of a big deal, and I got to play quite a bit on defense.

My dad used to joke about how there was so much of a hump on the field for drainage and we were so small that the coach had to stand on the bench to see us when we were on the far side of the field. But the thing that I remember most about the game – beside the fact that we won – was just how quickly the game went by. It seemed like we had just taken the kickoff and the horn was sounding on the old-style analog clock to end the first period.

In those days, there were two levels to youth football organizations – the little team and the big team. The quarters were six minutes long for the little team and eight minutes long for the big team. When I asked why the quarters were so short I was told it was because we were young and still growing and we would have plenty of time to play football as we grew up.

What a concept. The adults had the common sense to impart upon youth that they would get there eventually and there was no need to hurry things. The same thing cannot be said today, that is for sure.

There is a youth football league in the area that has changed its rules to adopt high-school varsity clock mechanics. In the high-school rulebook it states that at the lower levels game quarters are to be 10 minutes and the clock will wind on change of possession unless a prior dead-ball situation exists. Varsity mechanics dictate that quarters will be 12 minutes long and the clock will not start until the snap on change of possession.

While that last paragraph may seem like a lot of trivial mumbo-jumbo, what it means is the average time for a youth football game will go from slightly more than 90 minutes to at least 2 1/2 hours, and with four games per day with gaps in between that will be 12-plus hour days for some families. And when the referees who work the games voiced concern, they were told if they did not like it they could find another league to work.

Can you say arrogant? How many kids are going to walk away from the game because come September when some 7-year-old – yes, they start as young as 7 these days – is forced to endure the valley heat for two-plus hours weekend after weekend because some adults have no common sense? Here is hoping that rather than quit those kids find a team in the area where egos take a back seat to sensibility.

Other leagues in the area have adopted mechanics as far as the clock is concerned. That is bad enough, but until now none have had 12-minute periods. That is simply ridiculous.

Some may say that I should have tried to get the league’s side of things, but since this is an opinion column, I do not have to, and truth be told, I really do not care to. Football always has been very special to me, and when I see something so near and dear to my heart being polluted due to hubris I will speak up about it and do not care to debate it.

Commenting is not available.

Commenting not available.

Please wait ...