How Pop Warner Makes Sure Everyone Plays

One of the most appealing aspects of Pop Warner football is the strict rule that everybody plays.

Not only do Pop Warner football teams skip tryouts and make no cuts--assuring everyone a roster spot--but the youth football organization also makes sure every player gets into the game for a minimum number of plays.

But how is it enforced?

The answer is, by the other team. The amount each player plays depends on the size of the team. The breakdown goes like this:

  • For teams with a roster size of 16 to 25 players, every player must get in for at least 10 plays.
  • For teams with 26 to 30 players, everyone must get in for at least eight plays.
  • For teams with 31 to 35 players, each player gets in for six plays.

Each individual league is also free to adjust the number of plays higher, but never lower than the standard that Pop Warner has set.

The other team generally has two volunteers who serve as "Head Spotter" and "Assistant Spotter" to keep track of the other team's participation. The Head Spotter carries a clipboard with a Mandatory Play Form, and with the help of the Assistant Spotter, keeps tracks of players entering or exiting the game to document how many plays each player is on the field for.

At halftime, coaches are supposed to check with the spotters to see which players are supposed to see more action. At the end of the game, the Mandatory Play Forms are signed and exchanged to make sure the participation rule was followed.

If it wasn't followed, consequences are passed down by Pop Warner, including:

  • 1st violation: Suspension (though it may be reduced to probation)
  • 2nd violation: Dismissal if original suspension still in effect, probation revoked and original suspension reinstated.

The mandatory play guidelines--and the enforcement of it--is a developed and sophisticated concept. That's because Pop Warner finds participation an important value that it won't back down from.

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