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Youth league's mercy rule draws ire

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Sam Gardner

Sam Gardner is a general assignment writer for FOXSports.com. Originally from Orlando, Fla., he previously covered the Orlando Magic for FOX Sports Florida and has also covered the NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Finals and MLB playoffs. Follow him on Twitter.

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A youth football league’s new mercy rule is drawing outrage from parents in Northern California, but whereas most beefs over the implementation of mercy rules argue that they’re not tough enough, these parents contend that their league is stripping their children of opportunities in the name of a level playing field.

According to Sacramento NBC affiliate KCRA, the Northern California Federation Youth Football League instituted new rules this year that result in a $200 fine and a one-week suspension for the coach if a team wins a game by more than 35 points.

Teams must also sit their first-string players if they lead by 28 points or more at the half.

"We lose a lot of football players because their teams lose so badly," Robert Rochin, NCFYFL’s deputy commissioner, told KCRA. "If they are constantly getting beat, who wants to play anymore? We lose kids all season long because of that."

But that’s a good enough excuse according to some parents in the league — which includes kids ranging from 7 to 13 years old — who feel that the rule cheats their children out of a chance to develop and also poses a safety risk.

"Now they are afraid their coaches are going to get suspended and they are not going to have a coach to come out here and play football," said Kelly McHugh, whose 13-year-old son doesn't kick field goals in games for fear of running up the score.

Added another parent, Brent Moore: "The kids who are in the position of trying to protect their coach are backing off and are at a higher risk of being injured."

It’s really a no-win proposition for leagues that try to implement such a rule. If the mercy rule isn’t strict enough, parents will be upset that their kids are getting pummeled, and if it’s too strict, parents will moan that their kids are being cheated out of a chance to pummel.

I’m not sure I agree that there’s a long-term benefit to keeping the score in check, but in the case of the NCFYFL’s rule, there haven’t been any violations thus far this season, and parents shouldn’t expect much to change going forward.

"It’s not hurting the kids, it's teaching them compassion for the other team," Rochin told KCRA. "It’s teaching them sportsmanship."

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