Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)


Why are the age groups as defined?  We allow  play-ups, what about playing down if a player is on the small side for their age?  Why are 14 year olds allowed to play in the Southern Division when there are 78’r teams?  

The differences between age groups have been standardized for the last 20 years.    

There is no vehicle for “playing down” regardless of size.  The breakdown on age  groups is even older than that having been finalized in 1978.  The current age group structure has served its purpose well.  Fourteen year olds are allowed to participate in the Northern Division and therefore we must let them play in the Southern 
Division even though there may be school 78’r teams. 

We cannot force players to play 78’r ball if they choose not to.  The numbers of 14-year olds in the Southern Division has in the past been negligible until just recently.

 ** In 2010 the NRFL is instituting a two-division Pilot program in the 12/14 yr. old age group in the Southern Division.  This Pilot will establish divisions based on the percentage of 14-yr. old players in a given area.  Games will be scheduled according to the division an area’s teams fall in.

What is the NRFL policy on someone playing with a cast?

NRFL Rule #29 specifically prohibits anyone from participating with a cast.

This rule cannot be superceded by any type of medical or parental waiver.

Why doesn’t the NRFL use a regulation sized football?
The size of footballs used in NRFL games is adjusted to the age of our players.  We do not have high school or adult players so why would we use a football that would be difficult for many ages 8-14 to handle or throw.  The 8/9 use the smaller size # 6 or its equivalent, the 10/11 and 12/14 use the slightly larger #7 or its equivalent.  NRFL Rule #2.E further stipulates…”  the size ratio must be adhered to regardless of the make.  ALL teams may use their own football during the game as long as it is of the appropriate size however each team is responsible for getting the football to the officials between possessions.” 

** In 2010 the NRFL is revising the Football Usage policy; see Administrative Rules on the website.

Does the NRFL use a 25 second clock?

Yes, in a fashion.  The NRFL rules are high school rules except where they conflict with our rules.  The 25 second clock is covered with the officials at the pre-season clinic, however, bear in mind that sometimes the clock and its usage may vary from area to area.  Generally speaking the usage is fairly lax, again depending on the 
area and even the officiating crew.  Some officials watch it closely; others won’t call a violation unless it is extremely flagrant.

So, the best approach is to make sure the coaches move their teams along as the possibility for a penalty does exist. 

Screw-in cleats?  Why the rule?  If the shoe is a quality product, the cleat should be attached firmly?

The screw-in cleat reference in NRFL #5 dates back several years to when the Youth Sports Institute of MSU put out a circular describing several severe ankle and knee 
injuries.  These occurred due to the screw-in cleats either snapping off or not permitting the player to move his feet causing a knee wrench.  At that time it was suggested that youth leagues ban their use and the NRFL did so.  Most sporting goods stores know what types of plastic, molded cleats are approved for youth use.

Playing rules, team size, where do these come from?  And why?




The following has still been retained in NRFL #1 “… reserves the right to request an area to split a large team into two smaller ones IF it is necessary to create an even amount of teams for ease of  scheduling.”     

What are the weight limits for the respective age groups?

From NRFL  #2..” The age and weight restrictions in the various age groups are as  follows:                    

8/9 year old weight limit 125 lbs.

10/11 year old weight limit 145 lbs.

*12/14 year old weight limit 170 lbs. (Southern Division ONLY)


Special Division weight limits:

Silver Division- No maximum (no ball carrier over 150 lbs.) 

78’r Division - All 14 yr. olds all 8th graders must play here.  No maximum (no ball carrier over 170 lbs.)

NOTE: The player must be weighed in the equipment and jersey they will play in.

NO equipment, pads, etc. are to be removed in a players attempt to make weight.  NO equipment or  padding may be added to the player after they have weighed in……

How many areas are in the NRFL and approximately how many teams are there?

For 2010 there are 35 member areas in the NRFL split into two divisions.  Membership in a division while being somewhat influenced by geography is really determined by whether or no the area has a school sponsored 78’r team.  Northern Division areas DO NOT have a school sponsored 78’r team therefore the NRFL operates a 78’r component in those areas.  Northern Division areas include: Baldwin, Beal City, Big Rapids, Chippewa Hills, Howard City (Tri-County), Morley-Stanwood, Montabella, Mt. Pleasant, and Reed City. 

In the Southern Division, the member areas DO HAVE school sponsored 78’r teams therefore the 12/14 age teams from those areas have a different weight structure than the Northern Division teams.  Southern Division areas include: Belding, Caledonia, Cedar Springs, Comstock Park, Coopersville, East Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids Christian, GREAAT (Kingdom Square), Greenville, Kenowa Hills, Kent City, Kentwood, Lowell,  M.L. King Park, Mulick Park, North Park, NorthPointe Christian,  Northview, Richmond Park, Rockford,  Seidman Center,  TNT Youth Football, Sparta, Westside Falcon, William Abney Academy and Wyoming Park.

In 2009 the NRFL fielded 220+ teams in all age groups in both divisions.

Does the league arrange for game officials?

NO.  The individual areas arrange for game officials.  The rules state that game officials must be a minimum of 11th graders with the head of the crew being an adult over the age of 21.  Several areas have all adult crews and/or MHSAA certified officials   but that is not a requirement.

have been to games at several area fields and the clock management seems to be different at each place.  Isn’t there a standardized time-keeping format?

NRFL # 3 states,” All age groups will have 4-10 minute quarters with no more than a 2 minute rest between quarters, and a 10-minute half-time…..the clock will stop for all penalties, after a score, following kick-off, an injury, equipment repair or after a punt.  THE CLOCK IS NOT STOPPED FOR ANY OTHER REASON  (except of course for a called time-out of which each team is entitled to three, two-minute time outs per half.)

With so many different areas it is not surprising that despite everyone’s best efforts that there are some minor variations at each location.  ALL officials are required to attend a league sponsored clinic prior to the start of the season.

We live in an area where the neighboring town has a youth football program.  How come we cannot play or at least scrimmage them?

NRFL #13 states….” There will be no scrimmages against teams from non-NRFL members.”  This rule exists because of the tremendous number of youth football programs that are around with different weights, ages and standards of play.  The league has been advised by our legal counsel as well as our liability insurance provider that we insist on an exclusive agreement between our members and that is the reason for not allowing games and/or scrimmages with non-NRFL members.  With an average of over 200 teams annually there are sufficient opportunities to scrimmage without 
including non-members.    

Game times?  Who or what determines them and where does the schedule come from and why can’t there be a full season schedule?  Why do younger age group teams sometimes play so early?

Game times can be affected for several different reasons but the primary influence is the number of home games at a site on a given Saturday.  As a rule there are NO games prior to 8:30 AM (UNLESS an area requests an 8:00 AM start, which does occur as the season progresses) and no games started after 8:00 PM.

As far as younger age group teams playing the early games (and factoring in travel) there is nothing in the bylaws/rules that prohibits any age from playing any game time.  An effort is made each week prior to the schedule being released to see if some accommodation can be made for that particular age group especially if there is a moderate distance to an away game site.

Who selects the Field Director for an area?  Who do I contact if I have a problem with my area Field Director?  How are they replaced or removed?

Field Directors are selected by the individual areas, the NRFL has no jurisdiction over who serves as a Field Director.  Obviously it is hoped that an area would generally agree on their selection, although that has not always been the case.  The Field Director is the first point of contact for the league and as such cooperation between the NRFL and the Field Director of an area is of the utmost importance.  IF an area decides that their Field Director is not doing the job or needs to be replaced, then it is up to the parents or the local board (if any) to make that change.  Problems between an areas parents and their Field Director are handled locally.  When a parent somehow talks to an NRFL Officer it is league policy to refer the matter back to the local Field Director.  In the history of the NRFL there has never been a case of the league interfering with the selection of a Field Director.  It is a local issue, period.


Disciplinary byes: in the past it has been unofficial policy to issue a bye to a coach/team that has in the opinion of the league and/or the Field Director (usually the home area) flagrantly violated the rules or policies of the NRFL.  On occasion we have issued a bye at the request of a Field Director again usually because of the actions of a coach.  These byes for the most part have only been issued when the penalty will not impact another, innocent team, meaning that there had to have been an uneven number of teams in that division.  In some instances the league has issued letters of discipline usually involving a probation period of some type.


During the 40-plus years that the NRFL has been in existence the league has tried to stay in touch with the needs of its members, changing when necessary if it benefits the children who play and always by majority vote of the member areas.  The league Executive Board and Council work together and obtain input from each member area through their  representative to the board.  Rule and or bylaw changes are always by suggestion and implemented only after approval by the full board.  It is  league policy to review the bylaws/rules every two years.