An Oregon school district is considering whether to make a local youth football program’s access to its fields contingent on whether or not kids are playing flag football.
According to community newspaper Keizertimes, McNary (Ore.) School District notified McNary Youth Football that it was considering the change in December. The policy is based on a position statement by the Oregon School Activities Association’s Ad-Hoc Football Committee, which says kids should only play flag football until grade five, when a modified contact version of the game is first introduced.
If the recommendation is adopted, organizations seeking to rent fields from the district would not be granted access unless they adhere to rule changes. Those changes include prohibiting kids from kindergarten through fourth grade from playing tackle football; introducing fifth and sixth graders to a 7-man version of the game played on a shorter, narrower field; introducing 11-man tackle football in the seventh grade; and limiting seasons to eight games (without playoffs). However, any changes would not take effect until after the 2020 season.
The McNary Youth Football board has expressed opposition to any changes, calling the proposed rule updates “abusive and arbitrary.”
“It’s weird that the decisions being made about youth football are being driven by high school coaches and ADs,” McNary Youth Football vice president Russ Walker told Keizertimes. “They have no involvement in the youth programs.”
Members of the committee, however, see the changes as a way to enhance youth participation amid ever-present concerns about the game’s safety.
McNary athletic director Scott Gragg, a member of the Ad-Hoc Football Committee, told Keizertimes that dwindling participation numbers have been a concern.
“The committee basically looked at those numbers and thought of what could we do from an organizational administrative standpoint that could promote numbers and help a sport that many people love — including myself — stay vibrant and relevant moving forward,” Gragg said. “The stats show that this isn’t just a high school issue.”