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California Youth Football Act Effective January 2021

By Chris Fore, 12/10/20, 10:00PM PST


New law governing tackle football starts soon

“The California Youth Football Act represents a new era for youth tackle football, with a focus on safety and performance, that will pave the way for future generations of Americans to continue benefitting from the sport,” said Joe Rafter, President of the California Youth Football Alliance. “It’s been an honor for our organization to partner with Assemblyman Jim Cooper and his staff to set statewide safety standard for youth tackle football.”

On January 1, 2021 there are many new laws that hit the books here in California.  One of these important new laws for football coaches to know about is called the California Youth Football Act, signed into law by Governor Newsom on July 31, 2019.

We want to make our members aware of the fact that this new law starts in January, and to be aware of the specific guidelines outlined in the law.


The bill, on and after January 1, 2021, would require a youth tackle football league to establish youth tackle football participant divisions that are organized by relative age or weight or by both age and weight, and to retain information for the tracking of youth sports injuries, as specified. The bill would declare that nothing in its provisions would prohibit any youth sports organization or youth tackle football league from adopting and enforcing rules providing a higher level of safety than the requirements of this bill.


This bill became a law in 2019 partly as a result of the grassroots efforts of coaches up and down the state who came together to fight against the ban of youth tackle football in California.  Out of that effort was born the California Youth Football Alliance.  Joe Rafter, Steve Famiano and Ron White formed the California Youth Football Alliance

The leadership of the CAYFA along with their Medical Advisory Committee helped to shape the California Youth Football Act in partnership with the office of Assemblyman Jim Cooper.  

“California is leading the nation in setting the bar on the importance of protecting children from brain injuries while playing contact sports,” said Assemblymember Jim Cooper. “I applaud Governor Newsom for signing the California Youth Football Act into law, it sets the most comprehensive youth football safety standards in the nation.”

Members of our association, as well as high school coaches who are not members of our association, need to be aware of the California Youth Football Act should they choose to coach a club football team or any other youth football team starting January 1, 2021. 

The CAYFA does apply to "youth sports organizations" which includes offers tackle football.  The bill says that “'Youth sports organization' means an organization, business, or nonprofit entity that sponsors or conducts amateur sports competition, training, camps, clinics, practices, or clubs."

You will find in the law that most of it was written to follow many of the same guidelines that CIF uses for their high school coaches. For instance, 

(a) A tackle football team shall not conduct more than two full-contact practices per week during the preseason and regular season.

(e) Each youth tackle football administrator, coach, and referee shall annually complete all of the following:

(1) The concussion and head injury education pursuant to Section 124235.

(2) The Opioid Factsheet for Patients pursuant to Section 124236.

(3) Training in the basic understanding of the signs, symptoms, and appropriate responses to heat-related illness.

(f) Each parent or guardian of a youth tackle football participant shall receive concussion and head injury information for that athlete pursuant to Section 124235 and the Opioid Factsheet for Patients pursuant to Section 124236.

(g) Each football helmet shall be reconditioned and recertified every other year, unless stated otherwise by the manufacturer. Only entities licensed by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment shall perform the reconditioning and recertification. Every reconditioned and recertified helmet shall display a clearly recognizable mark or notice in the helmet indicating the month and year of the last certification.

There are some aspects of this law that would be brand new to most coaches in our association: 

(d) A coach shall annually receive a tackling and blocking certification from a nationally recognized program that emphasizes shoulder tackling, safe contact and blocking drills, and techniques designed to minimize the risk during contact by removing the involvement of youth tackle football participant’s head from all tackling and blocking techniques.

(h) A minimum of one state-licensed emergency medical technician, paramedic, or higher-level licensed medical professional shall be present during all preseason, regular season, and postseason games. The emergency medical technician, paramedic, or higher-level licensed medical professional shall have the authority to evaluate and remove any youth tackle football participant from the game who exhibits an injury, including, but not necessarily limited to, symptoms of a concussion or other head injury.

We encourage all coaches to be familiar with this law by reading it here. 

It is our understanding that this law will be governed by County Health Departments.  

Become a member of the California Coaches Association here.

CAYFA President Joe Rafter addresses Senators in July 2019.