Youth Football

Getting your child into Pop Warner football

If your little guy (or gal) has a taste for the gridiron, a youth football league can help develop his skills while also instilling values such as teamwork and fair play. It's also a great way for them to get some exercise and meet new friends.

While many parents worry about the safety of football, especially for young children, advances in equipment, strictly enforced rules, and height, weight, and age guidelines for players help ensure the safety of participants.

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Pop Warner Football

Pop Warner is to football what Little League is to baseball. That is, Pop Warner Little Scholars, Inc. (PWLS) is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting football and cheerleading/dance among 5-to-16-year-olds. Unlike Little League, however -- and any other youth sports organization, for that matter -- Pop Warner has a scholastic element. Participants must maintain good grades and demonstrate scholastic progress in order to join and continue in the program.

Pop Warner football and cheer/dance programs are designed to celebrate teamwork -- no individual statistics are tracked, only team statistics. All participants are considered vital members of the team, no matter how well they play during any given game.

Perhaps most importantly, Pop Warner football and cheer/dance is extremely safe. Participants always compete against those of similar age and size. Their unique matrix reduces the risk of injury. In fact, according to the US Product Safety Commission, Pop Warner football participants aged 5 to 15 experienced fewer injuries than soccer participants of the same age. That's right -- Pop Warner is safer than youth soccer!

Youth Football Equipment

No matter how safe the program, the proper youth football equipment is essential to keeping participants from getting hurt. Of utmost importance is a well-constructed and properly sized youth football helmet to protect the head, neck, jaw, and brain from injury, particularly the dreaded concussion.

Most helmets at the Pop Warner level are made from ABS plastic, which is lightweight and relatively inexpensive, but sufficient to protect kids from the low-speed, low-energy collisions at this level. Cushioning and facemask construction will vary according to brand and model. These can generally be chosen based on preference.

The most important thing in a helmet is fit. To find the right size, measure the circumference of the head about an inch above the eyebrows, and then use the sizing guide on the side of the helmet box to find the right one. Be sure to use a flexible tape measure for accurate results.

Other protective equipment includes shoulder pads and mouth guards. Your child will also need a couple of youth football jerseys for practices, though most leagues provide team jerseys for games.