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USA Football's National Practice Guidelines for Youth Tackle Football Endorsed by NFL

Source: USA Football

Youth tackle football practice guidelines from USA Football, which were released earlier this year and include clear definitions of contact as well as time limits on player-to-player full contact, are the first to earn the endorsement of the NFL. USA Football is the national governing body of the sport and educates more high school and youth football coaches combined than any organization in the United States.

USA Football’s National Practice Guidelines for Youth Tackle Football define levels of contact and set a 30-minute time limit on full contact within a practice session not to exceed 90 minutes.

The guidelines also provide youth football organizations with heat acclimatization procedures set forth by the Korey Stringer Institute and a recommendation on the number of practices per week (maximum of four during preseason and three during regular season). Two-a-day practices are prohibited at any time during the preseason or regular season. In addition, athletes are permitted to drink fluids at any time during a practice beyond designated breaks. USA Football’s youth practice guidelines are freely accessible to all youth football organizations at http://usafootball.com/practiceguidelines.

“USA Football’s practice guidelines for youth tackle football, created in collaboration with medical leaders, are an important step in creating safer players, more educated coaches and parents, and a better game overall,” NFL Director of Youth and High School Football ROMAN OBEN said. “When the language is standardized and the guidelines are clear, coaches and parents are empowered to strengthen the sport at its foundation, making the game even more enjoyable for the young athletes who love to play it.”

USA Football’s youth practice guidelines are also the first to earn the endorsement of national and international medical organizations: the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA) and the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine (AMSSM). These three leaders in medicine are composed of more than 85,000 physicians, scientists, researchers, educators, sports medicine specialists and certified athletic trainers across 90 countries.

USA Football’s Levels of Contact focus on varying levels of resistance throughout practices to build players’ confidence, further strengthen on-field safety and mitigate physical and mental exhaustion.

USA Football defines full contact as any drill conducted at Thud or Live Action within its Levels of Contact (chart at bottom). USA Football’s Levels of Contact also are employed in high school football practice guidelines created by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) in 2014.

The varying levels of contact – Air, Bags, Control, Thud and Live Action – are used to introduce players to practice drills, which help them to master the fundamentals and increase skill development in a progressive manner.

"We are proud to have earned the NFL’s endorsement for our youth practice guidelines,” USA Football Senior Director of Football Development NICK INZERELLO said. “Combined with the endorsements of leading medical organizations, we’re proud to support coaches to teach our sport with the best available science for their players.”

USA Football’s Levels of Contact:

AirPlayers run a drill unopposed without contact.

BagsDrill is run against a bag or another soft-contact surface.

ControlDrill is run at assigned speed with a predetermined “winner” assigned by the coach. Contact remains above the waist, and players stay on their feet.

ThudDrill is run at competitive speed until the moment of contact. There is no pre-determined “winner.” Contact remains above the waist, and players stay on their feet.

Live ActionDrill is run in game-like conditions and is the only time that players are taken to the ground.

USA Football’s National Practice Guidelines for Youth Tackle Football were comprised with guidance from its Medical Advisory Committee, chaired by DR. STANLEY HERRING, and its Football Advisory Committee, chaired by Pro Football Hall of Famer and ESPN NFL analyst BILL POLIAN. Herring is among the country’s leading experts in sport-related concussion and is a medical progenitor for public policy advancing head-safe play. Polian, the grandfather of youth football players, has dedicated his career to the sport and today helps lead its continued development through independent nonprofit USA Football. 

About USA Football:
Indianapolis-based USA Football (www.usafootball.com) is the sport’s national governing body, leading the game’s development for youth, high school and other amateur players. The independent nonprofit partners with leaders in medicine, child advocacy and sport to establish important standards rooted in education. USA Football advances coaching education and player skill development for safer play and positive experiences through athletics. Follow USA Football at www.facebook.com/usafootball or on Twitter @USAFootball.

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