Parents concerned over Pop Warner football weight limit

Parents across nation share experiences after story gains national attention

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Channel 4 told viewers Monday night about a Putnam County mother and her 6-year-old son who was told he was too overweight to play Pop Warner Football this season.

The story has gained national attention and since airing it, Channel 4 has heard from parents across the U.S. who are dealing with similar situations.

Courtney Shepard contacted Channel 4 from Lee Summit, Missouri on Wednesday night. Shepard said her 10-year-old son was recently told he couldn't play football with Pop Warner this year, because he was over the weight limit set by the organization for his age group.

"A gentleman who sat in a shed weighed him in and basically laughed in faces and said, 'He's too big to play on this team,'" explained Shepard.

Shepard said 10-year-old Landen is having a tough time getting over the fact that he won't be able to play football with this friends this year.

"It's crushing. It's crushing for us as parents and it's crushing for our 10-year-old son who now believes he's too big, he doesn't like his body, he counts calories now," said Shepard. "He got a drink, a sports drink the other day and said, 'It has 45 calories mom.'"

The Shepard's story is disturbingly similar to what Glenda Hernandez and her 6-year-old son Michael have heard from Pop Warner officials. Michael was told he was too overweight to play on his Pop Warner team in Putnam County.

Channel 4 spoke with the Executive Director for the National Organization about the situation Shepard and Putnam County mother Glenda Hernandez's sons are in.

According to the national Pop Warner age weight guidelines, tiny mite teams consist of children between 5 and 7 years old and weigh between 35 and 75 pounds.

For Landen's junior pee-wee league, it's for 8 to 11 year olds and the kids have to weigh between 60 and 105 pounds.

Channel 4 reached out to Pop Warner's National Executive Director, Jon Butler, to ask him if the policies should be changed to accommodate more kids who want to play in their age group but don't meet the weight requirement.

"We base our age-weight guidelines on the CDC's weight per age charts, we've actually increased our weights three times in the last 12 or 14 years," said Butler.

Butler said he wants children to be on an equal playing field and to make concessions could not only pose a safety issue, but lead to legal troubles down the road.

"The challenge for us is to make it as safe as possible for the most people, knowing that we can't include 100 percent," said Butler.

Courtney Shepard told Channel 4 that she's doing her best to keep her son active and she will continue to push for the rules to change so that her son can play.

Hernandez has signed her son up for baseball this year.

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