USA Football adopts ADM program to grow development pathways, adds new contact technique

By Brent Glasgow | Posted 1/25/2018

Consistently advancing football through forward thinking for the good of young athletes, USA Football — the governing body for the sport in the United States — is announcing its commitment to the U.S. Olympic Committee's American Development Model (ADM).

ADM encourages America's youth to utilize sport as a path toward an active and healthy lifestyle, and create opportunities for athletes to maximize their potential. Its key principles are:

  • Universal access to create opportunity for all athletes 
  • Developmentally appropriate activities that emphasize motor and foundational skills 
  • Multi-sport participation 
  • Fun, engaging and progressively challenging atmosphere 
  • Quality coaching at all age levels

The American Development Model has worked in dozens of sports that fall under the USOC’s umbrella. USA Football CEO Scott Hallenbeck sees ADM has a natural progression for the gridiron.

“We took a step back and as a member of the USOC looked at what other governing bodies were doing,” Hallenbeck told the Associated Press. “For instance, with ice hockey, with specifics for different ages — checking rules, modifying games — it was part of a progression. We have flag football and 11-a-side tackle, so there was not much of a progression. We’ve inserted the middle step, which we call rookie tackle.

“Rookie tackle is a modified game and we tested it in nine locations around the country. The idea is to cut the field in half ... play six- or seven- or eight-man games. Use a two-point stance, no special teams, kids play multiple positions, coaches can be on the field. This will help contribute to the positive overall experience and be an introduction to tackle football.”

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The best analogy would be with baseball — which has T-ball, then coach pitch, then player pitch.

“Shrinking the field and having modified tackle programs allows young athletes to grow into the game without having to play a version of the game they are not ready to navigate,” says Chris Snyder, the USOC’s director of coaching development. “This philosophy fits very well with football, and allows athletes to opt in at later ages without being put at a major disadvantage.”

"What the ADM means is you should be doing sports in an age-specific and developmentally sound manner, not just physical but emotional and mental development," Dr. Brian Hainline, the NCAA's chief medical officer and a former member of the USOC Sports Medicine Committee, told the Associated Press. "When the most important aspect is followed — when kids are introduced to sport and to safety and that they should be having fun, the likelihood they will remain engaged in sport and healthy activity far exceeds from when they're involved in early specialization and simply are focused on winning. It improves the ability to develop athleticism.

"USA Football is wise to be doing this."

As part of its continuing innovation, in 2018, USA Football will also offer new skill development and techniques to high school and youth football programs to advance play across the sport. 

The newly unveiled Tip of the Spear Contact System teaches methods of blocking and beating blocks. Emphasizing proper use of the hands and arms, it helps reduce helmet contact. The leverage-based, all-position-relevant system addresses athlete posture and body movement efficiency for greater skill development.

The system, created by Scott Peters, a former NFL offensive lineman, two-time submission grappling world champion and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu expert, uses portions of those disciplines. Peters has taught the system to more than 50 college and professional teams, in addition to youth and high school programs, and will serve as its chief instructor for USA Football.

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"Blocking and defeating blocks are foundational skills in our sport," Peters said. "Techniques needed to win those one-on-one competitions should not involve contact with the head and they can be learned by any athlete who loves to play football and wants to learn.

"This is not only about safety, it's about performance. You can learn this right now. It's very easy and simple to teach, it's transferable through all the ranks of football. It's about how to teach them a better methodology. It's about how to build a culture around domination with the hands and shoulders."

This year, USA Football will offer three clinic levels for high school and youth programs, led by Peters, in a progression from basic principles to position- and scheme-specific contact techniques. Clinics will encompass classroom and on-field instruction.

"Education and better techniques are fueled by forward-thinking," said Hallenbeck. "With our Tip of Spear Contact System and through Scott’s leadership, coaches can deliver smarter skill development to advance their players’ abilities, reduce contact and excel on the field."

More information on the USA Football Tip of the Spear Contact System, including how to request clinic information, can be found here.