Drastic changes could be on the horizon for youth football as the national governing body for the sport responds to safety concerns and declining participation.
USA Football confirmed to USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday that it will institute several rule changes in a small number of leagues later this year as part of a pilot program. The new rules, which will be evaluated and potentially rolled out nationally, include cutting the number of players on the field for each team from 11 to seven, smaller fields, elimination of kickoffs and punts and banning the three-point stance.
“A lot of this makes very good sense,” Stefan Duma, professor and head of the department of biomedical engineering at Virginia Tech, told USA TODAY Sports. “The data is clear in a number of those categories, including on kickoffs. I’m not aware of the data on some of the other changes, like limiting the number of players on the field.”
— Smaller playing field, which will measure 40 yards-by-35 yards, and require teams to drive length of the field on a fresh possession
— Seven players on the field for each team
— No special teams
— Mandated position rotations
— Coaches will be required to ensure players of equal size will be lined up against each other
— Two coaches to be allowed on the field to organize plays and guide players