“Why should I let my child play football?”
For many of the coaches, athletic directors, school administrators and other key youth football figures who arrived in Orlando, Fla., on Friday for the fourth annual USA Football National Conference, this question, perhaps more than any other, has been a common theme among the parents of their potential student-athletes.
Scott Hallenbeck hopes that the opportunities presented to those attending this year’s conference will allow them to be able to go back to their communities across the nation early next week and be better equipped to answer that very question.
Hallenbeck, USA Football’s CEO and executive director, said the answer to that question “may be different for many of us, since this game impacts us in many different ways,” but he knows the game of football — the future of which he shared in a keynote presentation on Friday — has never been in better hands.
“It’s you, the coaches — you’re the heartbeat of football,” Hallenbeck said. “You’re the ultimate answer to the question. … Only you can say I’ve committed myself to continuing my professional development, to learn the latest safety measures, to teach your child the incredible values this game offers.”
Those values — and there are many — include football being the ultimate team sport; football not discriminating in the huddle; the game teaching lifelong lessons on and off the field; and the brotherhood or sisterhood “uniquely found through the experience in a football team and in a locker room that is kept for a lifetime,” Hallenbeck said.
While most student-athletes won’t play organized football past the high school level, Hallenbeck reminded the coaches in attendance on Friday that their players do “become tomorrow’s doctors, teachers, firefighters, CEOs, police officers and military leaders,” like retired U.S. Army General Raymond Odierno, the Army Chief of Staff from 2011 to 2015 who was named USA Football’s chairman on Friday, replacing Carl Peterson, who retired after almost eight years with the organization.
“(The players) are tomorrow’s everyday citizens who will take the lessons and values you teach them on and off the field and apply them to their lives,” Hallenbeck said.
Hallenbeck also reiterated USA Football’s mission for the conference — and in general — that the organization is here to help coaches seek professional development and educational opportunities for themselves and their staffs, and can help streamline the education process in partnership with the coaches, for the coaches.
“In my view, what truly makes football special and different is you — the coaches,” he said.