USA Football is the recognized U.S. national governing body of the International Federation of America Football (IFAF), working towards advancing, unifying, and growing the game. They understand the level of commitment and work that is required for youth football, which is why the non-profit provides tangible resources to all enrolled organizations. The resources provided are useful to all leagues and coaches from those, on their first season, to those that have years of football experience. These resources assist organizations with the day-to-day operations through operation guides, budget analysis, risk management, and the league marketing kit. On top of these free resources, USA Football has a 2-million-dollar grant program and a number of partners to help youth organizations get on the right footing before their season starts.
USA Football promotes the benefits of playing football, while highlighting and recognizing organizations that meet the standards through the League Excellence Program. Through the League Excellence Program, leagues can achieve bronze, silver, or gold and receive additional benefits and resources on top of the ones provided through enrollment. Achieving the different levels is based on a number of criteria including having 100% of coaches certified and the number of Game Types offered.
The coach education pathway begins with coach certification and upon completion there are additional resources available. The coach certification is a comprehensive, holistic, and age-based course. It focuses on developing the athlete as a whole, on and off the field. USA Football strongly believes that youth leagues should hold each of their coaches accountable for certification. Every coach should be certified before stepping on the field each season.
USA Football’s coach certification is accredited through the United States Center for Coaching Excellence, USCEE. Kristen Dieffenbach, USCCE president, responded to this accreditation with, “They have created a comprehensive teaching-based coaching education program that supports the development of the knowledge and skills that individuals need to provide ‘right age, right stage’ coaching that aligns with USA Football’s long term athletic development framework.”
Dr. Gerard Gioia, Children’s National Hospital Neuropsychology Division Chief, stated, “USA Football’s certification represents the best youth sports. From player safety to exciting player skill development, this is what 21st century youth sports coach preparation looks like, and it is what moms and dads should expect from a sport’s national governing body.”
The coach certification focuses on health and safety, player development, and being a positive coach and role model. The 2022 coach certification is similar to last season’s but is more efficient and manageable from a time standpoint for coaching staff. This year USA Football partnered with the group, Stop It Now, to provide a more intuitive, updated, and enhanced abuse prevention component. The certification includes modules on Abuse Prevention, Health and Safety, Transformational Coaching, Quality Coaching, and Principles of Contact. USA Football provides a non-contact and contact certification so that each coach is certified on their relevant game type. There are also a limited number of public opportunities for in-person coach certification in conjunction with NFL partners and Blitz events. Attend a clinic, leave a certified coach.
Lastly, coaches may not realize the number of resources available once the certification has been completed. Once a coach becomes certified, all of their resources become unlocked: player progression guide, contact manual, practice plans, coach planner app, webinars, additional lessons, roster templates, and call sheets.
In addition to coach certification, a new youth tackling and contact system launched this year which focuses on youth athletes, and includes 70+ videos and lessons with 50+ drills. Also offered is a free shoulder tackling system developed with the Seattle Seahawks that builds upon the principles of contact shoulder tackling course and includes 22 free drills.
USA Football calls on all youth football leagues and coaches to step up to the standard, as they look to reach their one millionth coach certified this year.