The concussion controversy raging in the NFL has had repercussions on youth football, as medical experts openly question the safety of kids being subjected to tackle football. This has led to a movement to ban tackle football among young players.
Supporters of youth tackle football say the game is mostly safe, and find the call to ban tackling an overreach.
Even so, the state of New Jersey, in a continual lurch to the left politically, is ready to consider banning tackle football for anyone under 12.
Major changes could be coming to football in New Jersey, at least if a proposed bill passes through the state legislature.
On Wednesday, a new law, A3760, was proposed to the New Jersey Assembly’s Women and Children Committee that would ban tackle football for children under 12 years old.
Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Bergen, the primary sponsor of the bill, cited the greater risks of children developing neurological diseases by playing contact sports at a younger age as a top reason the legislation was introduced.
The proposal would still allow kids under the age of 12 to play touch and flag football.
Similar legislation has been put forward in California, Illinois and New York.
State senator Paul Sarlo, D-Wood-Ridge, who recently was a big factor in former Gov. Chris Christie’s pocket veto of the controversial co-op law, disagreed with the need for the bill and predicted it would not pass.
Sarlo suggested that safety awareness is on the rise throughout all levels of football, and said that should be the focus of improving player safety rather than banning tackling for younger levels. This includes providing more educational programs to youth coaches to ensure the proper tackling techniques are being taught.
“Most towns are now putting 8-year-olds in pads, but it’s very controlled,” Sarlo said. “I believe its all gonna come down to the leagues, education and awareness and limiting the amount of time they are hitting in practice, and you need to work on form tackling.
“I think the high schools and the NJSIAA can do more educational programs for their recreational programs. Clearly, we are losing kids in football, but I don’t think you need to ban it, but you have to make sure you have the right coaches in there.”
Here is video from CBS News.
The legislation was brought up briefly at a monthly Morris County Youth Football League meeting on Wednesday night. Mark Van Winkle, Jefferson Youth Football’s events manager and MCYFL rep, grew up playing football, and his 7-year-old son, Mark Jr., is supposed to start playing tackle football in the fall. Jefferson youth coaches talk with high school coach Jerry Venturino regularly, making sure both programs are in sync.
“I don’t know what limitations they would have. Obviously, running the same plays wouldn’t be (possible),” Van Winkle said. “Coaching flag for the past two years, and watching the Super Pee Wee and Pee Wee kids, there’s a big difference with the game in general. It’s completely changed. You’re talking about someone being able to run through somebody, versus having to run past somebody.”
State senator Benjie Wimberly, D-Paterson, is the head football coach at Hackensack and he also disagreed with the bill.
“All my kids played tackle football, and head injuries….[Vainieri Huttle] is a pretty good person, I think she got caught up in it,” Wimberly said, citing youth coaches who told him there are more concussions in cheerleading than football.
Wimberly also shared the belief that he thinks the bill will not pass.
“I talked to [Vainieri Huttle] about it, we will have some more sit-down talks on it,” Wimberly said. “I have talked to some other legislators, I don’t think it’s going anywhere.”