The nation’s oldest football organization is phasing out the three-point stance for players under the age of 10 in an effort to protect youth from concussions and head injuries.
Tiny Mite (5 to 7 years old), Mitey Mite (7 to 9) and Junior Pee Wee (8 to 10) will no longer use the three-point stance starting this fall. Beginning in September, players in those divisions will no longer be able to place their hands on the ground before they snap the ball.
The concern is that this position lowers players’ heads, making them more likely to lead with their heads and putting them in a more vulnerable position for head injury.
“We feel this change will be another major step as we work to create a safer, better football experience for young people,” said Jon Butler, executive director of Pop Warner Little Scholars. “By moving away from the three-point stance at our youngest levels we are changing how players are introduced to the sport and how they learn to play the game. We also are setting the stage for our higher levels of play to adopt the change. Because our sport has been willing to evolve over the past 150 years it is better and safer today than it ever was, while maintaining what makes it so great.”
Coaching around Central New York question if the new rule will bring the change Pop Warner wants.
“I don’t know that Pop Warner has or will be educating coaches and I think that is where the issue is because I don’t think firing out of a stance is being taught correctly and that is where injuries are happening,” said Cicero Football Coordinator James Tyler.
Another coach, who asked to remain off camera, said if taught correctly, the only difference between an two-point stance and a three-point is having a hand on the ground. The player’s weight should still be back, and their head should still be up.
Pop Warner also announced two additional changes for the 2019 season, which starts in September. No kickoffs at the Pee Wee (9-11 year-old) level. Pop Warner’s 2016 rule banning kickoffs in its three youngest age groups will be introduced at its Pee Wee division this season. Instead of kicking the ball off following a score or to start a half it will be placed at the 35-yard line.
Adding alternative to Age-Weight. Pop Warner leagues may continue the current structure of divisions based on a player’s age and weight or it can now implement a division by age only. Currently, an estimated 75-80 percent of youth football leagues nationally abide by an age-only structure.