Safety priority as football league adjusts age restrictions

Published 3:11 pm Friday, September 18, 2015

As Greg Scott, founder and chairman of Cover 3 Foundation, watched from the sideline on Saturday afternoon, he said it became apparent that having high schoolers play in a youth football league was unfair and unsafe. That’s why he and Cover 3’s Board of Directors will no longer allow nine 14-year-old’s to play.

“It was a tough decision,” Scott said. “My most important thing is safety, health and promoting a positive atmosphere, and it’s hard to do that when we have kids that are terrified of someone who should be playing junior varsity football.”

The league, which offers youth age 6 to 14 a chance to play organized football, is typically separated into to four divisions: flag (ages 6-7), midget (8-9), junior (10-12) and teen (13-14). This year, Scott said, there were not enough players for a teen division, so one division combining the junior- and teen-aged players was created. Restrictions on the older players were added to the rules, including that they could not advance the ball because it would be too difficult for the smaller players to tackle them.

Even so, Scott said that the 14-year-old kids were dominating Saturday’s contest involving the Holland Razorbacks. The Razorbacks, coached by Marcus Evans, had seven of the league’s nine 14-year-old’s.

“The day was going great until that game,” Scott said. “There was three or four times that we had to stop [the Holland game] so an ambulance could come on the field and check kids out.”

Having played professionally in the National Football League and Arena Football League, Scott said he understands the importance of having a fair playing field.

“We have to do our best to have level competition,” he said. “Once I saw that game and saw that they were physically dominant, it had to change. It’s damaging to the psyche of the younger kids when they’re still learning how to play the game … I couldn’t allow that to happen on my watch.”

Cover 3 sent a letter to the parents of the nine 14-year-old’s informing them of the board’s decision, as well as that they will be refunded the full cost of joining the league.

“I’d hate to see them have nowhere to go, but I’m not sure any junior varsity coaches would turn them away,” Scott said. “They’re very talented kids.”