California bill changes full-contact allowances at youth football practices

Photo: Joe Truskot/The Salinas Californian

California bill changes full-contact allowances at youth football practices

Youth Sports

California bill changes full-contact allowances at youth football practices

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Changes in the basics of California youth football were signed into law July 31 as Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 1: California Youth Football Act with different reactions from coaches in the Salinas area.

Assembly Bill 1 (AB1), authored by state Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove), limits the amount of full-contact practices in an effort to lower brain injuries in youth football.

For Toro Bulls founder and coach Joey Antonetti, this legislation won’t change much of what the program does.

“We don’t have a lot of tackling like other leagues,” he explained. “We use full contact on Sunday and a little bit of it in practices on Tuesday and Thursday.”

They have iPads on the sidelines to administer concussion tests and when they perform tackling drills, they don’t go straight to the ground. Instead, they use pads with tackling to keep impacts low.

And that approach hasn’t impacted their success: they’ve racked up numerous Monterey Bay Youth Football League (MBYFL) Super Bowls in their eight years of existence.

“(Our safety) is what’s bringing a lot of families to us,” Antonetti said. “We take a lot of time for conditioning and learning the fundamentals first before (tackling).”

On the other hand, North County Bulldogs coach Joe Islas worries about how it’ll change practices.

“I just see it as the kids aren’t going to be coached up enough because that’s not enough time,” he said. “If they’re not ready for that and conditioned, they could get injured.”

New requirements

Starting January 1, 2021, youth sports organizations that have a tackle football program are required to:

  • Conduct no more than two full-contract practices per week during the preseason and regular season
  • Conduct no full-contact practice during the offseason
  • Have coaches receive a tackling and blocking certification
  • Having designated personnel annually complete specified concussion and head injury education, a specified fact sheet related to opioids and training related to heat-related illness
  • Meet specific requirements relating to safety equipment
  • Have a licensed medical professional present during games
  • Have coaches receive first aid, CPR and automated external defibrillator certification

This is an addition to previous legislation for middle school and high school that limited full-contact practices as well.

“California is leading the nation in setting the bar on the importance of protecting children from brain injuries while playing contact sports,” Cooper said in a press release Thursday morning. “… it sets the most comprehensive youth football safety standards in the nation.”

Joe Rafter, President of the California Youth Football Alliance which sponsored AB1, looks forward to the law’s effects for future players.

“The California Youth Football Act represents a new era for youth tackle football, with a focus on safety and performance, that will pave the way for future generations of Americans to continue benefitting from the sport,” he said in the release Thursday.

Get more Salinas news from The Californian.

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California bill changes full-contact allowances at youth football practices
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