USA Football pilots program to spark youth interest |
U.S./World Sports

USA Football pilots program to spark youth interest

Associated Press
Youth football float during Deer Lakes homecoming parade before playing Burrell Friday, Sept. 28, 2018 at Lancers Stadium.

USA Football is piloting the game’s first long-term development program in the hopes of growing the game and catching up to other sports around the world.

The sport’s governing body launched its Football Development Model on Thursday, announcing six youth leagues will team up with USA Football in the hopes of attracting more young players and improving skills.

The leagues will experiment with new ways to coach fundamentals in practice, aiming to hone skills while cutting down on full-speed contact that ends with players hitting the ground. The FDM also will encourage leagues to experiment with ways to play the game, including flag football, padded flag football and modified games with smaller fields and fewer than 11 players on each team.

“We’re looking at football in a fresh, new way,” USA Football CEO Scott Hallenbeck said in an interview with the Associated Press. “These leagues around the country are willing to take on this challenge with us to change the narrative and culture of the game, which is easy to say and hard to do.

“Hopefully, the Football Development Model will reimagine the sport to help parents gain confidence and trust and to address some of the challenges in the sport.”

Likely because of the fear of concussions, participation in youth tackle football has declined sharply this decade.

There were more than one million children ages 6-12 playing tackle football each year from 2011-13. Participation dipped last year to 839,282, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association. Participation in flag football for the same age group, according to the SFIA, has increased from fewer than 700,000 in ‘14 to nearly one million last year.

“My son started playing tackle football at 7, and I still wonder if that was the best thing to do,” Hallenbeck said. “When you look at it from a skill-development lens, why can’t flag football be like T-ball is for baseball? In flag, you can teach how to pass, catch, backpedal and get into a breakdown position defensively. You can learn how to play football without contact.”

The program was crafted in part by a council of people with expertise in football, medical and child development along with long-term athlete development.

“The FDM is a progressive approach for the development and safety of our players as they are learning the game,” said Dartmouth coach Buddy Teevens, a member of the council. “This is 21st-century football that embraces the value of the team experience, fundamental skill instruction and contact reduction in an effort to teach the sport in a smarter and safer fashion.”

The Niagara Erie Youth Sports Association in New York, the Miami Xtreme Youth Football League, Texas’ Frisco Football League, the Washington-Greene Youth Football League in Pennsylvania, the Iowa Development League in Des Moines and Utah’s Ute Football Conference will pilot USA Football’s new program.

“The FDM is an athlete’s roadmap — at any age — to enjoy the fun of football by participating in sport activities that are developmentally appropriate physically, mentally and socially,” said NCAA chief medical officer Dr. Brian Hainline, chairman of the FDM council. “Part of the model’s forward thinking is that you learn to become an athlete before you learn to become a player. When sports programs adopt the FDM, athletes will perform better, play longer and gain a lifelong path to athleticism, health and wellness through football.”

USA Football, a USOC member, studied development programs such as one USA Hockey has had for many years and others operating overseas.

“We’re just catching up,” Hallenbeck said. “We feel very strongly that this is what the sport has been screaming for something like this and I wish I thought of it 10 years ago because it’s a smart way to take another look at our great game.”

Categories: Sports | US-World
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.