The �Free Blocking Zone�
Most Youth Football Teams play in leagues that are governed by the prevailing HIGH SCHOOL rules of the state with a few nuances like weight limits and for some; minimum play rules. Some leagues will also have special rules pertaining to unique scoring for extra point plays or exception rules on special teams plays like automatic or “no rush” punts.
What I have yet to see is any youth football league that had any special rules when it comes to the �free blocking zone�. Unfortunately many youth coaches are unfamiliar with what the �free blocking zone� is and the rules that pertain to it.
What doesn�t vary in youth football is the application of High School rules for everything but the exception rules that the league designates for itself. There are two sets of High School Rules, Federation Rules, which covers all states with the exception of Massachusetts and Texas, which are governed by NCAA Rules.
Unfortunately many youth football coaches get High School, College and NFL rules confused with one another and often look foolish to the referees doing their games. In our league we use local High School referees who have to endure some of these uninformed youth coaches who give many of us a bad name. Our home league referees check their egos at the door, try to be patient and try to keep the eye rolling to a minimum, which may be hard for them to do in many cases. I�ve also coached in leagues that didn�t use High School refs, where the quality varied quite a bit.
A few years back we played a game where an opposing team was called for a blatant pass interference. The ball had been thrown well over our receivers head, but the defender came up and crushed our receiver well before the ball arrived. The opposing coach went ballistic, screamed yelled and even called time-out, yelling that the ball was �uncatchable.� The prevailing High School refs doing this game endured the rant and calmly explained in low tones the ruling. Well according to High School Rules, it does not matter if the ball is �catchable� or not. This coach wasted a timeout, caused his team unwanted grief, made himself out to look foolish and burned any credibility he had with the referee crew because he didn�t know the rules. Not all referees are great, but most of the High School guys are ok and they try to do a good job and earn a few extra dollars for their families. I�ve spoken to a number of these guys, they have great stories to tell. Some of the things they hear or have to put up with are down right embarrassing.
One of the things youth coaches often misunderstand is what the �free blocking zone� is. According to Federation High School Rules it is: According to Rule 2, Section 17 Article 1: The free blocking zone extends from 4 yards to the right and left of the ball.
It is perfectly legal in that zone for your LINEMEN to block below the waist via what most people call crab blocks, scramble blocks, shoeshine blocks and cut blocks against defenders that line up on the line of scrimmage. NCAA rules also allow for these types of blocks in this zone as well. These are all legit blocking techniques that most youth players will use if they go on to play High School football and are great equalizers when playing much bigger and more athletic teams.
Get to know High School rules and the exception rules used in your league and if you are unsure, ask, don�t yell. Save yourself headache and embarrassment as well as set the right example for the kids and parents.
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