Pop Warner Football Rules & Regulations
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Pop Warner Football is a youth sports organization, founded in 1929 and named after legendary football coach Glenn “Pop” Warner. More than 200,000 boys and girls, ages 5 through 16, participate in Pop Warner football each year. Most standard American football rules apply in Pop Warner leagues, but the organization makes a few adjustments.
Pop Warner’s nine tackle football divisions have age and weight restrictions. The youngest, Tiny-Mite, is for players 5 to 7 years old who must weight between 35 and 75 pounds at the start of the season. The players can't exceed 84 pounds during the season. In the oldest division, Bantam, 13- to 15-year-olds must weigh between 135 and 185 pounds to start the season and can never go over 194. Additionally, 16-year-olds may play Bantam if they weigh 135 to 165 pounds to start the year and no more than 174 by the end. The Unlimited division is the only category with no maximum weight limit.
Players Must Play
Every member of a team has to play a minimum number of plays from scrimmage, and special teams plays don't count. In the seven divisions for the oldest players, Junior Peewee through Bantam, members of teams with 31 to 35 players must participate in at least six plays. The minimum rises to eight plays for teams with 26 to 30 players and 10 for rosters totaling 16 to 25 players. In the Mitey Mite division, the minimums are eight, 10 and 12 plays, respectively for the three roster sizes. All Tiny Mites must be on the field for a minimum of 15 plays.
Fields and Equipment
Most Pop Warner games are played on standard 100-yard fields, but the four youngest divisions may use 80-yard fields. The equipment is also fairly standard. Every player must wear a helmet certified by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment. Players must wear shoulder, hip, tailbone, thigh and knee pads, as well as mouth guards that attach to their face masks. Boys must wear either an athletic supporter or compression shorts. Shoes may have rubber cleats no more than 1/2-inch long. Metal cleats are not permitted.
Game Play Rules
Most Pop Warner rules for tackling and other game play follow the youth football regulations in the state. States typically follow rules set by the National Federation of State High School Associations. Pop Warner leagues don’t allow butt or chop blocking, or using a helmet to make a tackle. Tiny-Mites play by different, simpler rules. For example, the games have no punts, kickoffs or extra point attempts. Offensive and defensive formations are limited and scores aren’t kept.
Timing and Mercy Regulations
The top three age divisions play 12-minute quarters. The younger divisions play 10 minute quarters except for the Tiny Mites, who play 22-minute halves. A running clock starts if a team takes a 28-point lead and doesn’t stop except for an injury or at the referee’s discretion. Additionally, teams with 28-point margins can't throw passes and can only run between the tackles. The offensive restrictions stop if the lead dips below 28 points, but the running clock continues.
M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.