USA Football model takes new approach in developing players

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FILE - In this Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017, file photo, coach John Galligan, left, directs players during a Rookie Tackle youth football game in Islip, N.Y. USA Football is implementing its Football Development Model nationwide, after six youth organizations around the country took part in a pilot program last year. (AP Photo/Ralph Russo, File)

Jeff Gorringe is a longtime coach and administrator in the same Utah youth football league that he started in as a player in 1972, and likes USA Football's new player development model that is now nationwide.

“Too many people look at football as X’s and O’s. … This is a holistic approach to the game of football,” Gorringe said. “This is a re-imagination where it makes the game stronger, better and longer lasting than we’ve ever had.”

The Ute Conference, with about 6,500 players between ages 7-14, was one of six youth organizations across the country that last year was part of the pilot program for football's first long-term athlete development model. The Football Development Model is based on the U.S. Olympic Committee’s American Development Model that focuses on skill development by offering multiple entry points and types of a sport.

USA Football serves about 9,000 school-based and youth programs with its nationally endorsed coaching education and playing standards programs. The FDM is designed to make the game safer by reducing contact and teaching in a way that meets athletes where they are in their development as players and individuals.

Even at a time when USA Football can't do in-person presentations and training sessions with league boards and coaches because of the coronavirus pandemic, USA Football executive director Scott Hallenbeck said more than 5,000 organizations have enrolled or sought information since the FDM was introduced at the group's conference in February.

“That’s a significant number … the majority of organizations that are already embracing the idea of the concept. And that’s even with information rolling out,” Hallenbeck said. “That speaks volumes to us that there is a need and there’s a sense that we have to continue to evolve and change, and really adapt to what the new normal needs to be, and that this concept is resonating and has great potential.”

While football’s governing body has postponed or canceled all in-person coach certification clinics and other events through at least May because of the COVID-19, it conducted a webinar about the FDM for coaches and league officials earlier this month.

Along with expanded coach certification online, there is also enhanced curriculum there with new courses and other resources aligned with the new model.