(from New York Times, October 23, 2012) On the very first play of a pee wee game, two players were hit hard enough to be taken off the field. The game was being played between the Southbridge Pop Warner pee wees and the Tantasqua Braves. Players in this league were as young as 10, and for safety rules could not weigh over 120 pounds. The first play proved to be a serious foreshadowing of the rest of the game. Southbridge was clearly a bigger and better team than Tantasqua, and after the first quarter, the score was 28-0. The game continued to be played without interference, despite three players being knocked out and Tantasqua not even having enough players to continue.
Although there are supposed to be mercy rules, the score at the end of the game was 52-0. Five players had head injuries and the last one occurred on the last play of the game. A few days after the game, the boys were diagnosed with sustained concussions. Southbridge’s coach, Scott Lazo, was accused of having his players purposely hurt the other team, but he defends himself by saying Tantasqua’s coach should have forfeited. Lazo says the coach should have stopped the game and talked to him.
League officials recently suspended both coaches for the remainder of the season. Referees of that game were also banned from working in the Central Massachusetts Pop Warner League. This incident only adds to the debate of safety rules in football. This does not just apply to pee wee leagues, but to high school, college, and even the NFL. Rules, however, can only be effective if the people in charge enforce them. Pop Warner has been trying to increase the safety in their league by training coaches to recognize signs of concussions and to know when to pull kids from the game.
Sometimes the desire to win can blind players and coaches and the rules go out the window. When talking about youth coaches, Chris Nowinski said, “If you consider the coach is a fool, there are no rules that are foolproof.”