Coach: New youth football guidelines largely already adopted in Madison area

Tackling could be eliminated below 7th grade
Coach: New youth football guidelines largely already adopted in Madison area

A local football coach said Madison-area youth football teams have largely already adapted new guidelines designed to reduce concussions and other injuries recently released by Football USA, which governs the amateur sport.

The New York Times reports Football USA released the guidelines in response to declining participation rates because of injury concerns. The changes would make the youth game more like flag football, the newspaper said.

The Times reports the guidelines include eliminating punts and kickoffs; each team having six to nine players on the field, instead of 11; and a smaller field.

Dave Richardson, the head football coach for Verona Area High School, who also works with younger teams in the area, said area teams have implemented many of the changes already.

“We’ve already been already implementing things that are coming down,” Richardson. “We play in Alliance League in seventh and eighth grade. We’ve already been doing these things. We modify the punt. We modify the kickoff. We modify extra points.”

Under the changes, players will also start each play in a crouching position rather than a three-point stance.

“If you get up and stay off your hands, now your face is up. So now at least I’m going to use the front part of my body instead of the top of my head,” Richardson said.

Richardson says tackles could even be eliminated at the fourth-, fifth- or sixth-grade levels. He said he doesn’t think changes in the lower levels will affect a player’s skill level going forward.

“There’s no correlation between somebody playing fourth-grade youth football or playing fourth-grade flag football and their success in high school or college,” Richardson said. “As long as they’re playing, whether it’s flag or touch or tackle, we’re really happy.”

Richardson said NFL players and referees also need to lead by example when it comes to hard hits.

“When you see players launching into people and it’s not flagged, when you watch Jordy Nelson get speared, which would be a textbook definition of spearing and it’s not called and the player’s not even fined, that’s a problem,” Richardson said.