The typical age range for a high school football player is 15 to 18 years of age. Are 19-year-olds allowed to play for a high school football team?
Can A 19-Year-Old Play High School Football?
Not unlike college, high school football players have limited eligibility for playing competitive football for the school. With that said, it is possible to have a 19-year-old player if their birthdate happens to be right before the cutoff, or if unusual circumstances prevented them from graduating on time.
The answer does depend in part on the state and the specific reasons why a player hasn’t graduated yet. In most states, the rules include being less than 19 years old by September 1, which is around the start of the school year.
We’ll review the ages allowed for high school football. We’ll also discuss situations in which a 19-year-old could be able to play high school football.
When can a 19-year-old play high school football?
While it is possible for a 19-year-old to have a birthday right around the start of the school year, that would mean only playing a game or two at the end of the season while being aged 19. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does – happy birthday!
The question is usually asked when applying to unusual circumstances.
Can a high school football who didn’t graduate on time play football when they are 19?
This again depends on the scenario, but typically when a student is behind on their schoolwork far enough that they weren’t able to graduate as a senior in 4 years, their eligibility to play is not extended.
More common scenarios that do result in an extended eligibility involve temporary disabilities that prevented the student from completing school on time – often unrelated to behavioral or academic issues.
An example of this is the COVID pandemic of 2020. In some states, high school sports were not played for part of the year due to the physical nature of football and an attempt to stop the spread of the virus.
Some students could have elected to have an additional year of eligibility.
Being honest: Most students whose football programs shut down or were otherwise unable to play or graduate because they were very sick are less than likely want to be eligible for an additional year of high school – and high school sports, because they are preparing to go to start working or go to college.
If a student happens to need an extra year of high school, they might not necessarily want to play football too.
Some specific scenarios include a child behind “held back” in Kindergarten, resulting in them being older than other students when they enter high school.
These scenarios are up to the athletic office, but they are usually allowed to play because they weren’t given a choice in the matter.
It is worth noting that some athletes skipped a year on purpose to gain eligibility for an additional year of sports, like Karl Anthony-Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Why can’t some students play high school football past 18?
Part of what athletic administrators are trying to discourage are students who are playing football despite getting bad grades or having behavior issues – and having their play time extended because they wouldn’t graduate on time.
Another reason why situations like skipping a year on purpose is because the kid might have a size advantage – or be trying to take advantage of another year of competitive play, especially if the league is a good one.
In this situation, an older player on the team might be taking the spot of someone who didn’t wait a year or is academically eligible but doesn’t have room on the team for another player.
What should a student who might be eligible do?
Though the answer depends on the state, you should look up what to do – the answer is most likely contacting the athletic director’s office or the school.
You’ll also want some verification somewhere down the line regarding why the student needs an extra year of eligibility.
If a big problem like COVID happened, this was likely communicated some time ago – which is good so that students can prepare.
How to avoid playing as a 19 year old
To someone who was unable to play or go to school for health reasons, asking for eligibility isn’t too much.
If a student is asking about playing an extra year as a 19 year old because of academic problems, the schools message should be clear: Attend class, do homework, do decent on tests and you’ll be able to move on and probably be happier than if you kept playing high school football.
Also know that there are many amateur and semi pro football leagues out there.
Not playing an extra year of high school football also doesn’t mean you can’t play in college.
- A 19 year old may be eligible for high school football if they were born right around September 1st and not held back
- In other situations, a student who was held back in elementary or middle school may be eligible for another year
- Though it depends on the state, most of the time, a student who is not yet graduating because of poor grades or behavioral problems won’t likely gain a year of eligibility to play as a 19 year old
- Students who were unable to play or go to school due to disability may be able to play another year
- Some might choose not to in an effort to get a GED or move on from high school