You’re kidding, right? Pop Warner football team fined for scoring too many points

Some stories seem innocuous but they certainly do provide a window into where our society is heading.

I remember the days growing up and playing sports when scores were kept and trophies went only to the winners — or to those who performed the best. As a high school varsity player we went 1-19 over my two years there — and the one win came the first game of my junior year! We were always competitive at Grady High School, but just could never pull it out. As the Cheap Trick song “Mighty Wings” from the movie “Top Gun” goes, there are no points for second best. Well, that was the world I grew up in and it well prepared me to for a career in the U.S. Army — where there are certainly no points for second best. And so this story from my home state of Georgia really does cause me concern.

As reported by the Daily Caller, “The Lawrenceville Black Knights are undefeated. But the Pop Warner football team’s latest win cost their parents $500. The youth football team violated the league’s mercy rule with an interception returned for a touchdown by 8-year-old Elijah Burrell. League rules say no team shall be ahead by more than 33 points, lest the team face punishment. Burrell’s touchdown, his first, happened when the score was 32-0. The team was fined $500 for violating the rules and the team’s coach was suspended for a week. It wasn’t just the score, however. WGCL-TV in Atlanta reports a witness said, “the team made a mockery of the game by laying on the ground, running off the field and mocking the other players,” displaying “unsportsmanlike conduct” — then throw a flag and penalize the team on the spot.”

And I wonder if the “witness” was a parent from the other team?

The lesson that should have been learned at this game was that bad behavior is immediately punished — we don’t dismiss it and then punish later. You stop it right when the kids think they’re being cute.

“A mother of one of the children, Chando John, told WGCL, “How do I explain to an 8-year-old kid that your coach has been suspended because your teammate unintentionally scored? It is hard having an 8-year-old in flight to think of everything everybody has said, other than ‘I need to make a touchdown.’”

Now, the “mercy rule” business has gotta end. We have to start teaching that when you take the field of competition, you play your hardest until the end. How does anyone imagine that a player — eight years old — is going to catch a ball and pass up the great chance of making a “pick 6” — an interception return for a touchdown?

And what sense does it make to fine the team — the parents — for their kids’ exceptionalism? What message does it send? So if our kids were to make straight A’s and some other kids don’t — we will fine the kids and the parents for “scoring too much?” The point is, there are lessons in losing and sometimes lessons in humiliation. Trust me, after going 1-19, that was a hard lesson, one that I despised.

Take this example in college football from last weekend down in Ft. Worth, Texas. The number 10 ranked Horned Frogs of Texas Christian University played the visiting Texas Tech Red Raiders — and if you’ve been following college football this season you know the Frogs can score.

Well, in the end Texas Tech found out as well, as the final score was TCU 82-Texas Tech 27 — TCU QB Trevone Boykin threw seven touchdowns, a school record. Is someone going to fine TCU or suspend the coach? That’s life — you take the field, you have to be ready, and if not, you learn tough life lessons but you can always go back, work harder, and improve. And you can bet Texas Tech will remember that score next year when TCU goes to Lubbock!

As you all know, the West family went up to Knoxville for the traditional last Saturday in October game against the number four ranked Alabama Crimson Tide — who just the previous week beat Texas A&M, 59-0…mercy?

Well, sitting there with 102,455 folks, the score was Alabama 27-Tennessee 0 in the first quarter — you know what we were thinking. Well, next thing you know the score was 27-17 — the final score was Alabama 34-Tennessee 20. Our young team of freshmen and sophomores didn’t quit — they realized there would be no mercy and they didn’t want to be humiliated on their home field. I was proud of them and our Coach Butch Jones, especially on a play late in the fourth quarter when the Bama running back burst threw and was headed to the end zone. One of our Tennessee defensive players stripped the ball out of his hands of the Bama player at the 1-yard line and Tennessee recovered the ball – that’s what we call, “I will give my all to Tennessee today.”

The lesson from the Pop Warner football game in Lawrenceville is that we cannot protect our kids from the sting of defeat. We must teach our kids the honor in competition. But mostly we need to teach our kids NEVER to quit and even if they start slow, finish strong — the lesson of America, which unfortunately thanks to the progressive socialist Left, we don’t teach. We should not make rules to try and stifle the efforts of one in order to protect the feelings of another — life doesn’t work that way.


  1. Why we are raising a nation of wimps. I am surprised we were able to find the war fighters we developed for Iraq and Afghanistan.

    • Exactly. The Pentagon has said this many times the general population is unfit for military service and a draft would be more work than it was worth.

  2. So by the same logic, the losing team should be fined $500 as well for not scoring enough points to keep the slaughter from happening.

  3. I agree to a point. Many of these teams, although against league rules, are handpicked just so they can steam roll another team. Sadly these leagues are more about the coaches ego’s being inflated. All things being equal in a fair draft… … akll bets are off!

  4. Here’s an idea. How about they are just kids playing a game? How about they don’t have a roster of 60 players where the third string running back will give is all in a loosing effort because it’s his only chance to show the coach something. I use to coach football to 8 year olds. When the score get out of hand injuries start popping left and right for no apparent reason. You can’t compare 8 year olds who are mostly playing because their parents wants them to high-school or college player who have recruiters watching them. They are 8 the only purpose of playing is to have fun. Not fun if only on team is enjoying itself at the expanse of the other. I know most parents like to think of their 8 year old as an exeptional talent but the NFL is a long way when you’re that age. Lighten up they are kids and it’s just a game.

    • Are you sure you understand the point you’re trying to make? I sure don’t. The issue is penalizing kids for playing well and fining their parents for it.
      Can you try again but a little more coherently?

    • Here’s an idea. Respond to the point. You want to fine success? Typical liberal pap that is making us a nation of crybabies. There are winners and there are losers. At what age do you start teaching children that fact of life? You want to coddle them and tell them ‘all that matters is you got to play’? Wrong. They keep score for a reason. You are supposed to give pass/fail grades for a reason. You are evaluated by your boss for a reason. You don’t remove phys ed because you little Johnny may get hurt. You don’t tell a class that we do not grade here because we don’t want hurt feelings. And you sure as hell don’t tell FB players………no matter WHAT THEIR AGE………to back off and waltz around because the other team is no good. Did YOU play FB Ruffy? If so then you know that they coach you up to go full tilt for a couple of reasons.

      1] That’s how you play.
      2] So YOU don’t get hurt. If you go half-azz and the other guy is going full speed, you’re gonna get hurt pal.

      And let me leave you with this Ruffy. Kids are very resilient. The just want to play irrespective of the score. It’s the whiny PARENTS who freak out over the score.

      • The fining was excessive. I can admit that. The scoring rules also don’t make sense. Kid catches and interception he runs it back you can’t coach him to do anything else. There are other ways to do it. Not only I played football but I coached 8 year olds. All you say is true, they get hurt if they go half-ass. But still kids have all their life to learn all the valuable lessons you speak of. How about just letting them have fun on the field.

      • Hey clod. The fine was ridiculous. What kind of puss fines people for winning games by big margins? The kids that were winning were having great fun. The losers weren’t. Losers NEVER have fun no matter what the score. And when the hell do you want to teach kids about winning and losing? Stop being a wimp.

  5. I see a mercy rule as necessary in youth sports…even Little League has one. However, as written, this rule is ridiculous. Instead, what I would propose is for youth gridiron football is a mercy rule to be invoked that if at the end of the first half, if a team is up by 28 or more, the game will be declared over at the half, and if a team goes up by 28 or more after the half, and the losing team does not score to reduce the margin to less than 28 points on the next possession after the margin increases to 28 or more, the game shall be declared over after that possession. There would be no fines, because the mercy rule would call for an early end to the game. Pop Warner needs to change its rule on this matter.

      • Running clock isn’t really a mercy rule. It’s there to keep the game moving. A football game would last 5 hours with the way some high school teams score.

      • It actually is because it leaves less time for the winning team to score, but still allows playing time for backups and the losing team.

      • Being a mercy rule may be a side effect, but it really is to cut down on the constant stoppages caused by frequent scoring.

    • why? I played pop warner in the 80s. we lost games by 40+ points… I grew up, went to college, have a job, and so did everyone else. The only mercy rule i saw was one team losing 77-0 in the third quarter was called because there was no way they were going to come back from that.

      Before you start endorsing rules, shouldnt you actually have a reason for them?

  6. You forget that was the POLITICALLY CORRECT thing to do….Dear Lord!!…..leave the kids alone and let them learn respect by character taught them by coaches and parents rather than rule……………oh im sorry ..i forgot that isnt done much in parenting much anymore……send them to local city football league and get them out of their hair…….by the time they reach high school and in some cases college as a athlete they spend more time on bench for domestic abuse or taking gifts for autographs and they cant write cursive …..stop this madness

  7. I don’t get why the parents bend over and accept this. Just don’t pay the fine! Pop Warner isn’t the IRS. It’s time parents revolt against stuff like this, including idiotic school administrators who suspend kids for eating pop-tarts, and just say NO!!

  8. i played pop warner… the only mercy rule i saw was one of our teams was losing 77-0 in the third quarter so they called the game… nobody died, nobody went on to become a failure in life, they still went out the following week and played another game…. since when is getting beat such a huge emotional event.

  9. Why is there not a ‘mercy’ rule for number of losses in a season? after all isnt it just as ‘hurtful’ to go 0-11 in a season as it is to be beat by 38 points in one game? all teams should get a 5-5 record at the end of the year.

  10. Warning.. soap box.

    Youth sports teach lessons that are tough to learn in any other venue. As a former youth football coach, I enjoyed working with boys/young men and seeing them develop through an age that is difficult. Teamwork, bouncing back from a defeat, the value of working toward a goal larger than yourself. Granted you can simulate that
    in a classroom, but it just isn’t the same as getting run over by a linebacker. It physically hurts. When you miss that tackle it just didn’t affect you, but your teammates, the coaches, the fans in the stands. The agony of defeat is tough one-on-one against a single opponent like in chess, but when a whole team is depending on
    you and YOU screw it up for everyone… that’s pain. OR you do everything right, and a teammate screws it up. Youth Sports led by “good” coaches, will teach the boys to lift eachother up when they make mistakes, as we all make them from time to time.

    Letting the clock run, or shortening the quarters to shorten the game is a good way to have a mercy rule. But expecting players who have been practicing for months and working hard towards a common goal to let up is absolutely wrong. Coaches on their own, should ensure 2nd and 3rd string players get lots of play time. Coaches can deliberately run plays that they know have a low probability of scoring. But you can only do so much of that before your players feel like you are quitting on them.

    The other thing to consider, especially in football, when you let up, you set yourself up for injury. Staying low hard and fast ensures you don’t get injured. Standing up and stopping your pursuit sets the player up for an injury. It is pure physics. Two bodies in motion, if one stops and the other continues all the energy goes to the player who let up.

    Finally, if you think that scores don’t really matter, you are kidding yourself. At the High School level, top running back, quarterbacks, linebackers, linemen, everyone is
    competing for college scholarships. That’s real money for kids who may otherwise
    be unable to afford school. And if you don’t think the top High School programs in the state aren’t paying attention to Middle School and Pop Warner, that coaches don’t recruit your living in fairytale land.

    It isn’t usually the players and coaches that are the unsportsmanlike individuals. It is
    usually the parents who push the “win-at-any-cost” agenda to their kids and coaches. If a High School coach TODAY has 1 win in two seasons, does anyone think they will keep their job? That’s real money. Food on the table. And intense pressure to win. Running up a score could be practice on difficult plays for the following week. Running up the score in many times is revenge for humiliation in years past too.

    But a $500 fine for a pick-6 from probably a second/third string corner is just plain ridiculous.

    • Very well written. I don’t have an issue per se with a mercy rule with the options suggested, ie running the clock, etc., but the fining is just stupid. I coached minor hockey. Same issues, other than the scholarships. It is difficult, and potentially risking injury, to ask players to turn it on and off. I know our son had good years and bad years, also refereed for a number of years. Some of the life lessons learned in competitive sports were the best “education” he ever had. Helped in university, helped in business, neitther of which have a mercy rule.

  11. Of course there should not be the mercy rule. Let the players and coaches instead decide with what spirit to win or lose. Basic rules count, not so much added junk that says the little darlings’ egos cannot be offended.

    Instead, view AmericaIdea for the 2016 Dream Candidate. Support or repubs don’t get the right leader. Easy to understand. It’s tough though, with no contact form, no email sending allowed, to the GOP site. They are now even locking their site down more and more. This side behaves ridiculously toward its own candidate.

  12. One more thing. It’s how human beings grow in maturity and learn to tough it out, trying better next time. Adult human beings should know and teach better.

  13. What real team plays full out the entire game against far inferior teams. That’s just stupid it’s asking for your star player to get hurt.

    The mercy rule exists for same reason refs call the fight when it’s clear someone has lost rather than having the winner beat on the guy till the full time has run. The point has been made, and there’s not point in rubbing it in for anyone, let alone a bunch of eight year olds.

  14. It’s teaching kids it’s OK to loose. Instead of striving to do better next time.It happens to be life. Our motto used to be praise what makes you tough, Life isn’t easy, and if you settle for second best instead of trying to improve your self, you never succeed. It is like common core, 3*4 = 11 it gets marked as a correct answer as long as you can explain why you got that result. Can you see a nuclear physicist using that reason. It is the same in sports, making excuses why it is OK to loose, sets kids up for failure, instead of striving to do better next time.


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