USA Football 2018 National Conference: CEO Scott Hallenbeck introduces initiatives, stresses collaboration, more entry points for players

By Adam Wire | Posted 1/26/2018

USA Football CEO Scott Hallenbeck delivers today's keynote address (Photo by Scott Goldman)

When USA Football CEO Scott Hallenbeck addressed the 2018 National Conference attendees during today’s keynote address, three general themes stood out.

Hallenbeck touched on the importance of providing as many entry points to the game as possible. He talked about new initiatives that will further develop players and coaches. Finally, he emphasized the importance of collaboration among coaches from all levels of play, particularly between the youth and high school levels.

Friday’s keynote address also featured Pro Football Hall of Famer Cris Carter, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Pro Football Hall of Fame president and CEO David Baker and was emceed by Fox Sports 1 broadcaster Mike Hill.

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As part of the American Development Model rollout, Hallenbeck referenced USA Football’s 9-on-9 pilot program that it will unveil this year. Like Rookie Tackle, which USA Football introduced last year, it will feature two 20-minute halves with a running clock and no special teams. Other features include limited contact, blocking contact skills and soft-shell equipment, among others.

It’s all about providing as many entry points to the game as possible, Hallenbeck said.

“If you’re reluctant to let your kid play tackle or even Rookie Tackle, we’ve got you covered,” Hallenbeck said. “If you want to play flag from age 5 to 50, we’re all for it. It’s football. Enjoy it.”

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That was the first part of an equation of Multiple Entry Points + Quality Coaches = Positive Experience.

To cover the “quality coaches” portion, Hallenbeck mentioned several initiatives, including the following:

Tip of the Spear Contact System: USA Football partnered with former NFL offensive lineman Scott Peters to teach the method, which combines jiu-jitsu and mixed martial arts tactics to avoid repetitive hits. Peters displayed the system, which is already being used in various youth, high school, college and NFL programs, throughout the weekend.

Leadership and Culture System: Focus 3 CEO Brian Kight has used his leadership training system at Ohio State and Washington, and is now offering his resources as a series of courses through USA Football.

Finally, Hallenbeck emphasized the need for high school and youth football organizations to collaborate, not only for the quality of players in their programs, but also for participation numbers and the overall well-being of players in general.

“We have to set aside egos, set aside other issues,” Hallenbeck said of building relationships between youth leagues and high school programs. “Whenever the high school program is working in concert with the youth program, football is thriving.

“The high school coach has amazing influence,” Hallenbeck continued. “The youth programs are doing great work. We’ve got to bridge that gap. We need your help to do it. Please go back to your communities and connect. We’ve got to find a way to communicate and have consistent messaging.”

In an effort to respond to coach feedback, Hallenbeck said USA Football will endeavor to create a National High School Football Coaches Alliance, which will provide a national voice for high school coaches by high school coaches, promote high school football, enable professional development and promote coaches associations.

 “We’ve listened to you and learned from you,” Hallenbeck said. “We’re trying to evolve this conference based on feedback we’ve gotten from you. This is all about professional development; how we can make you better, and how you can make us better.”

It’s all part of USA Football’s mission to be a resource from all aspects of developing the game.

“This is the football family here,” he said. “We have youth flag representation, we have state association representatives … this really runs the gamut.”