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5 Tips for Coaching Pop Warner Flag Football

Image Gallery: Football Flag football gives younger athletes the chance to learn how to play football without having to worry about tackles. See more pictures of football.

Pop Warner football has been around since 1929, when founder Joseph J. Tomlin established a small youth football league in Philadelphia to keep neighborhood kids out of trouble. The league has grown to over 400,000 participants in all 50 states, plus teams in Mexico and Canada [source: Pop Warner]. The annual Pop Warner Super Bowl is played at Disney World and broadcast on ESPN.

Pop Warner football -- named after legendary college football coach Glenn Scobey "Pop" Warner -- has always emphasized success on and off the field. Kids ages 5 through 16 must maintain a 2.0 grade point average (on a 4.0 scale) or 70 percent (roughly C-) average to play. There are no tryouts, no cuts and everybody plays. The culture breeds dedication, self-discipline and talent: Between 60 and 70 percent of NFL athletes played Pop Warner football as kids [source:].

In 1983, Pop Warner introduced flag football as a no-tackle option for younger athletes. As of 2004, there were 883 flag football teams nationwide, mostly reserved for players between 5 and 7 years old. Flag football helps kids learn the fundamentals of the game without worrying about pads, helmets and hitting.

Coaching a flag football team can be deeply rewarding, but don't expect it to be easy. Coaching young athletes has its own set of unique challenges: short attention spans, sensitive feelings, difficult parents and more. But as their coach, you have the opportunity to teach important life lessons: the value of hard work, good sportsmanship, risk-taking, and respect for themselves and others.

Follow our five helpful tips to get the most of your flag football coaching experience.