By Leah Schmalz

With growing concern over concussions among sports players, it only makes sense that parents exercise a degree of caution when considering which sport their children will play. To address these concerns, Mint Hill Athletic Association offers Pop Warner football, a program that stresses safety above winning.

A national program, Pop Warner is tuned into ways to prevent concussions among young players. “The statistic [from the program] that I think is surprising to people as far as concussions is it’s safer than soccer up until the age of 15,” said Dennis DiCarlo, commissioner for the Mint Hill Pop Warner football program. “They keep the ages and weights really confined.” 

Kids can start the program as early as age five and continue until age 13. While there are minimum academic requirements in place, there are exceptions for children with learning disabilities. Coaches are certified in USA Football’s Heads Up training program, which prepares them to teach players techniques to keep their heads up and minimize the risk of contact.

Pop Warner also has an awards program to recognize the top students across the nation for academic achievements. There are scholarships available to these students as well. “There are other competing programs that have great things about them but I think they’re more about winning,” said DiCarlo. “This one emphasizes academics and child development.”

On June 8 from 5 to 7 pm, Mint Hill’s Pop Warner program will host a meet and great session with the coaches at the senior league baseball fields at the back of the Mint Hill Sports Complex off Brief Road. The coaches will cover speed and agility drills and fundamentals from 5 to 6. From 6 to 7 food will be served and parents will have a chance to meet the coaches.

The season begins August 1 with three practices each week. Once games start at the beginning of September, practices drop down to two per week. Registration is open to all regardless of skill level, but it closes once a team is full. A discount is available for early registration. To register, visit the Mint Hill Athletic Association’s website at