Uniforms and helmets are part of the gear in bantam football.
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Bantam football is conducted by independent leagues, often based in the Midwest, that sponsor youth football. It is one of a number of other organizations sponsoring football for kids -- Pop Warner is the biggest such organization. Bantam football leagues, often known as pee wee football leagues, have been around for decades. For example, the Whitehall Bantam Football League in Ohio started in 1964, and the Greenwood Bantam Football League in Indiana dates back to 1972. There is no nationwide organization for bantam football, although the Whitehall League is one of many kid's football leagues associated with the National Association for Youth Sports, described as "America's leading advocate for positive and safe sports."
The intention of bantam football leagues is to give kids a taste of real football -- they play tackle football with standard football equipment and uniforms -- and aid in their overall development. The mission statement from the Greenwood League focuses on the value of football in developing physical, emotional and psychological skills. The league intends to provide a "supportive atmosphere that builds confidence and self-esteem, teaches the value of teamwork and trust, and inspires everyone to give their very best effort at all times."
Bantam leagues establish their own rules, so age divisions may differ from one league to the next. But all leagues endeavor to group kids according to age and size. The Whitehall League gives kids a chance to play football when they are still toddlers -- the Micro Division is open to kids from pre-kindergarten to the second grade. The Junior Division is reserved for kids in the third and fourth grade, and the Senior Division is open to kids in the fifth and sixth grades.
Bantam league rules generally follow the standard regulations for football. However, the rules are modified to take into account the ages of the players and the purpose of the league. For example, in the Whitehall League, quarters last only eight minutes, and every player must get into the game for at least 10 plays. You can't carry the ball in the Micro Division if you weigh over 85 pounds or in the Junior Division if you weigh over 115 pounds. Many of the rules deal with sportsmanship. The league has a "zero tolerance policy" for bad behavior -- a player or coach who uses foul language, gets into a fight, uses racial slurs or threatens someone is ejected and also barred from the next game on the schedule.
In 2012, "The New York Times" reported that five boys as young as 10 years old received concussions in a single football game in Massachusetts. Concussions and subsequent brain damage are not just the bane of professional football -- kids in youth leagues are extremely vulnerable as well. A 2012 study, published in the "Annals of Biomedical Engineering," examined the effects of head impacts on 7- and 8-year-old players during practice and games. The study determined that the impact of hard hits could produce concussions. The researchers recommended that high-impact drills be eliminated during practice.