If you decide Pop Warner is the right organization for your child, you'll have plenty of company. This national youth football organization is the nation's oldest and largest; there are nearly a half-million participants in 42 states and six countries, each working toward a championship playoff to close out their season.
But don't let the numbers intimidate you. Lest you begin to believe Pop Warner is full of blustering parents screaming from the sidelines and frazzled student athletes enduring a pressurized sports experience, one look at Pop Warner's founding principles and you'll be breathing easy. The whole idea is to offer a safe and positive environment, where kids can learn the rules of the game while having fun. The focus is on sportsmanship, and there aren't even any tryouts. These young athletes never have to worry about being cut from the rosters.
Plus, the Pop Warner powers-that-be recognize few student athletes ever make a career out of their on-field endeavors. That's why it's the only national youth sports organization that insists its members achieve decent classroom scores before they can score on the field. This mix of academics and athletics offers incentives to Pop Warner youth, who are rewarded when their classroom performance raises the bar. Annual all-American status, as well as a National Scholar Banquet, is offered to the kids who are most academically accomplished. What's more, coaches, volunteers, hired workers and vendors with repeated access to players undergo annual background checks.
Founded in 1929 in Philadelphia by finance executive Joe Tomlin, and later named for iconic football coach Pop Warner, the organization is one of the most organized in the world -- with mandates at every level, from local teams to world championships. The rules lean heavily on safety protocols, grouping children of similar age and size to reduce the risk of injury. According to Pop Warner statistics, playing in its league is safer than signing up for a soccer team. Pop Warner football touts its players have 12 percent fewer injuries than their black-and-white-ball-kicking counterparts.
With all the league has going for it, you might think signing up your little Knute Rockne will drain the bank account. Truth is, Pop Warner football, cheer and dance registration fees range from $40 to $100 for the season. And, yes, we said cheer and dance. There's more to Pop Warner than football. The organization added these spirit-minded sports several decades ago, and the participation numbers have grown steadily ever since. Certified coaches work with cheer and dance members, who are separated into age divisions from 5 to 16, on seasonal and year-round squads.
Whatever your preference, football, dance, cheer -- or simply an incentive to stay motivated in the classroom -- Pop Warner is proof that athletics and academics are powerful precursors to lifelong success.