Plenty of youth football leagues have “mercy rules” that prevent one team from fully trouncing another, but some California parents are concerned that a new regulation goes too far.
Players in the Northern California Federation Youth League are not allowed to beat the other team by more than 35 points. If they break the rule, their coach may be fined up to $200, and could even be suspended.
Although the rule itself is not new, the penalty has grown harsher. Previously, offending teams were issued a warning, and had to write a letter explaining how they had attempted to keep the score down. However, the league reported more than 30 violations of the rule last year, spurring a penalty increase.
Despite parental protests, deputy commissioner Robert Rochin told local news station KCRA “It’s not hurting the kids, it's teaching them compassion for the other team. It’s teaching them sportsmanship.”
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Brent Moore, father of a boy who plays for the Sutter Huskies, said he thought that the rule might lead to increased instances of injury. Said Moore, “The kids who are in the position of trying to protect their coach are backing off and are at a higher risk of being injured.”
Kelly McHugh, mother of James, a 13-year-old who also plays for the Huskies, expressed discontent with the new penalty. “Now they are afraid their coaches are going to get suspended and they are not going to have a coach to come out here and play football,” she said. She noted concern that James would remain idle on the field instead of playing to his potential.
Her son echoed the sentiment saying, “I can’t kick field goals or practice my field goals.”
Yet according to Rochin, "We lose a lot of football players because their teams lose so badly. If they are constantly getting beat, who wants to play anymore? We lose kids all season long because of that.”