Photo courtesy of Hill Country Pop Warner
Positive feedback abounds from everyone involved in this fall’s Rookie Tackle rollout with Hill Country Pop Warner in Austin, Texas.
A USA Football-designed bridge game between flag football and 11-on-11 tackle, played on a smaller field and with fewer players, Rookie Tackle debuted in Austin in September. Among its greatest proponents are the officials.
“They love this format,” Hill Country Pop Warner Vice President Cuatro Groos said. “Most of our referees have been working at the youth level to the high school level, and I’ve had so many approach us after games to tell us how much they enjoyed it. The common theme is that it’s 100 percent about the kids having fun and developing a love for the game. They want to referee these games.”
The same enthusiasm holds true for the parents.
“Their kids are having a blast, and they enjoy that they're getting a taste of the game, in a way that’s manageable, fun, safe and exciting," Cuatro said.
“I have a feeling that we’ll get a hundred percent return next year, and that kids will bring three or four of their friends with them to join the team.”
Coaches have expressed their appreciation for the program, which coaxed Groos out of retirement.
“My kids are older now, so I had been out of coaching, but I was so intrigued by Rookie Tackle that I decided to coach one of our teams, and it’s been the most fun I’ve ever had coaching youth sports, just awesome.”
Some of the league’s participants will compete in a Rookie Tackle exhibition on Dec. 2 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Florida, as part of the Pop Warner Super Bowl.
“I had six teams out of nine in our program so excited about this format and that opportunity that said they wanted to go, that they’d raise the money and take their teams,” Groos said. “We are thrilled to have our teams in the Austin area going to Disney and have a chance to play an exhibition on the national championship field, to show the Pop Warner community what Rookie Tackle is all about. It’s exciting for all of us.”