Most high school football players play until they graduate. How many years are they eligible to play high school football?
Typically, high school football players have a total of 4 years of eligibility total, across all schools. This can change in the event of unusual circumstances, like serious illness affecting a player’s ability to atten school or graduate. In some cases, the COVID pandemic affected years of eligibility.
We’ll explore some of the most common rules determining student eligibility for high school football. We’ll also dig into some scenarios and reasons why players might be eligible for longer.
How many years can you play high school football?
The typical answer is up to 4 years, ranging from when you start high school as a freshman to when the average students graduates as a senior. There are some reasons why the number of years of eligibility might change to more or less and we’ll review those in more detail.
If a student is unable to attend school for person, injury, or illness reasons, it is possible that they are granted an additional year of eligibility. Note that these decisions are often up to the district – and to be honest, most students would choose to find an accelerated way to graduate from school instead of playing sports.
In some cases, students might had been forced to leave school for a year to be a caretaker or to work for the family, and in those situations, the student might be given more time.
We call it this because a student – or a whole school, might not have a choice when it comes to not playing football for a whole year. This doesn’t necessarily mean that students will be granted an additional year of eligibility for long term events like COVID – and they might not be interested in staying high school longer to play an extra year.
What about younger kids who play high school sports?
Here is where things get a little messy, and again vary by school district and state. There are situations where a middle schooler plays well above their own level and would be on a more competitive playing field in high school instead. In addition, some middle schools might not have all sports available.
Coaches in districts that allow middle school aged kids to play in JV or varsity sports tend to enjoy having middle school students play with varsity teams because it helps them get accustomed to a higher level of play faster – and they experience high school atmosphere’s sooner. The downside in some cases are that some rules are made to prevent an 8th grader from playing in the place of a student who is near graduation.
Coaches also say that given the competitive nature of high school sports, some students aren’t emotionally ready for the idea of being “cut” from the team or sent to play at a lower level.
Though the situation does vary from state to state and district – these students generally don’t actually start their four years of eligibility until they become a high school freshman. Also, for all students, if happen to turn 19 before the school year is over, they are usually allowed to play as a player above 18 – which might be for a week or two.
How do I ask for extra eligibility for a high school football player?
Usually you go through the district athletic’s office. It’s also worth saying that if a student is having a difficult time being in school for any variety of reasons, you might want to start documenting the “why” right away – though the district will ask you for it anyway. This just makes having a petition to ask for an extra year easier.
Do extra years help a high school football player?
Let’s be honest and clear here: If a high school athlete wants years of extra eligibility, it’s not uncommon for their parents to have them repeat a grade early on, once they have started in competitive sports. Karl Anthony-Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves did this partially in an effort to continue to develop as a basketball player in a competitive program, while playing with a varsity team.
The idea isn’t exactly encouraged, but it can be done.
Can I get extra eligibility with academic issues?
A high school football player who is delayed in graduating because of academic related issues is usually not given extra eligibility to play another semester or year of football.
Being careful with eligibility
Many schools and districts are careful with eligibility because sports aren’t the main focus of school. Having additional players on a competitive team also limits the chances of other players to develop and get play time. Districts are not encouraged to allow high school football players to be on the field if they have academic and off the field issues.
In other words, doing poorly academically is not a gateway to extending the number of years a student athlete plays high school football. The opposite should be true in the decision making of school districts and conferences.
- Football players who don’t experience illness or circumstances beyond their control that don’t allow for football usually have 4 years of high school football eligibility
- Being very sick, disabled, or have major health events happen can extend eligibility
- Football players who join a high school football team as a middle schooler retain 4 years of eligibility once they actually start high school
- Many decisions are up to the individual district or conference offices