Pop Warner Football 101

Photo: Scott Halleran

To many people around the world, Pop Warner offers the foundation for a life of success. Since its inception in 1929, Pop Warner has taught the fundamentals of team work and dedication, and the importance of education as an essential skill for all walks of life.

The driving principle established by Pop Warner's founder, Joe Tomlin, remains the same today: that the classroom is equally important as the playing field. As the only youth sports organization that requires scholastic aptitude to participate, Pop Warner is committed to developing America's young people on the field and off.

Consisting of approximately 360,000 participants from 5 to 16 years of age, Pop Warner strives to combine sports and education in a way that develops healthy and responsible young men and women. Through football, cheerleading and dance programs, Pop Warner offers an educational experience like no other.

Joe Tomlin's Junior Football Conference

It all began with broken windows.

In 1929, a factory owner in northeast Philadelphia enlisted the aid of a friend, Joseph Tomlin, to solve a recurring problem in the region. Factory owners were increasingly troubled by windows being shattered by idle youth. With an average of 100 factory windows broken each month, the vandalism became an expensive issue for the community.

An active athlete in high school and college, Tomlin suggested the building owners organize and fund an athletic program to engage the teens in more constructive activities. Tomlin was also aware of the importance of education in young people's lives.

He envisioned a youth football league that combined sports and education in a way that engaged the restless youth in more constructive activities. Tomlin quickly went to work setting up a schedule for a four-team junior football conference in time for the 1929 season, sparking an organization that has grown into the largest youth football organization in the United States.

Glenn "Pop" Warner and a New Name

By 1933, the Junior Football Conference had expanded to 16 teams. Tomlin planned a spring clinic to promote his league and discuss ways for improvement. Among the dozen local college football coaches invited to speak at the clinic was Glenn "Pop" Warner. Already a legend among active football coaches, Glenn Warner had recently moved to Philadelphia to serve as head coach for the Temple Owls.

The night of the clinic, the temperature dropped to an unseasonable low, with high winds and sleet shutting down the city of Philadelphia. All of the coaches invited to speak at the clinic cancelled except for Pop Warner. Arriving nearly 30 minutes late, Warner was greeted by a standing ovation at his entrance.

He proceeded to deliver a two-hour presentation followed by an hour of questions and answers, captivating the crowd of 800 football players in attendance. By the end of the evening a unanimous decision was made to rename the fledgling youth program to the Pop Warner Conference in honor of his dedication to the sport and support for the emerging youth sports organization.

More: 10 Common Questions for Pop Warner Parents

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About the Author

Michel Cramton

Michael Cramton is a former Active editor and is a contributor on a broad array of sports and fitness topics. He is based in Austin, Texas.

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