In January I wrote about Assembly Bill 1 being proposed in the California State Assembly, another push to regulate tackle football at the youth level. This coming on the heels of last year’s Safe Youth Football Act, which was an attempt to ban tackle football to any kids under 12 years of age; that thankfully failed to get enough votes in committee to be heard by the state Assembly.
AB 1, meanwhile, is slated to be heard in committee on May 1. Also known as the California Youth Football Act, authored by Assembly Member Jim Cooper from Elk Grove, it would require all youth tackle football leagues to limit the amount of full-contact practices to two per week in both the preseason and regular season and prohibit contact practices in the off-season. It would also limit contact drills to just 60 minutes per practice. One of my criticisms was that they were just mimicking the standards in place at the CIF level and other leagues like the Golden Empire Youth Football League. Turns out there was a good reason for that.
Shortly after penning my piece on this year’s latest legislation, I received a phone call from Ron White, the president of the Golden Empire Youth Football League and an advocate for safely teaching the game to youngsters. Apparently, he was in a meeting with a group of like-minded coaches when my article came up. Someone said, “Did you see this out of Tehachapi?” referring to my objection of an attempt to legislate sports with this latest proposal.
White said he chuckled and owned up to knowing me and eventually gave me a call after reassuring his colleagues that I support them despite my initial criticism, which for the record had nothing to do with the regulations, which were sensible and safe. It was more in objection to the state legislature entering the arena of youth football when Lord knows they have plenty more things they can ruin in this state.
Turns out, it was White, who presides over the league that Tehachapi Youth Football plays in, and a few other coaches who partnered with Assemblyman Cooper to draft AB 1. They shared the same concerns I did with last year’s attempt and statement by co-author Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez-Fletcher that there would be no “middle-ground” in her attempt to ban football for kids.
So, White and a few others came up with something they hope appeases Gonzalez-Fletcher and her out-of-touch cohorts in the state capitol. Their target isn’t the legitimate leagues like Golden Empire, CIF and others around the state that are putting safety first and limiting contact, but these independent and travel “championship” teams that have little to no regulation of practice time or contact.
Many of these travel-based football leagues found throughout the state operate as a for-profit business while not adhering to any set standards and giving organized youth football a bad name.
I don’t know why parents get suckered in to believing that at 12 years old their child needs to be traveling the nation playing youth football or competing for a made-up national championship at a tournament in Las Vegas all while opening their wallets to a stranger. It’s youth-football gluttony at its finest; the kids take the extra hits and the coaches take the extra payments. It’s these independent operators that AB 1 hopes to regulate while potentially getting some lawmakers off the backs of the good guys doing things the right way.
I feel much better about AB1, knowing it’s coming from a group of legitimate football coaches and not another lawmaker with a few extra minutes in his schedule. However, I’m not naïve enough to believe this will appease anybody, I cite my original reference when I claimed this tactic never worked for law-abiding gun owners or plastic straws. Sacramento might as well be another planet sometimes, and when someone feels self-important enough to attack an issue like Gonzalez-Fletcher did last year, it’s rare they get off the scent.
I will, however, support White and his football-coaching brethren in their attempt to pass AB 1. White’s always been a straight shooter with me, and we’ve helped each other out on a variety of football-related issues over the years. It’s reassuring that a bonafide football mind with the kids’ best interest at heart will be testifying in Sacramento in May, and I hope for the sake of him and the sake of the beloved game of football, somebody with a stitch of common sense will be listening.
Corey Costelloe has covered NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter and broadcaster. A THS graduate, he now resides in Tehachapi. He can be reached at email@example.com. The opinions expressed are his own.