Indiana Youth Club Earns Gold Level Status in USA Football Program

By Samuel Teets | Posted 3/27/2023

The Police Athletic League located in Fort Wayne (Allen County), Ind. has earned Gold Level status through USA Football’s League Excellence Program for the 2022 season.  

USA Football’s League Excellence Program is a way for youth football organizations to earn recognition for a commitment to raise operational standards and provide a great environment for athletes and their families. 

“This year [2023] will mark the 54th season that we have hosted a football league,” said Executive Director Nicholas Lannswift. “During that time, we have had thousands of kids come through the program. Some have gone on to have impressive football careers playing in the NFL, such as Ben Skowronek, Jason Fabini and Rod Woodson. But our emphasis has always been larger than football – the focus is developing the character of the young men and women who come through the program.” 

The continued success of The Police Athletic League in its mission to teach lessons about football and life hits close to home for Lannswift, who grew up participating in the program. It takes a lot of effort to run such an exceptional league, but Lannswift and his volunteers knows it’s worth it.  

“The inspiration is the kids and families in our community who need this league and this outlet. The world we live in is increasingly remote, isolated and impersonal,” Lannswift explained. “Football develops life skills that are going to stick with the athletes as they go to school, go to work and spend time with their families. With that as your reason to get up in the morning, how could you not be excited about going into work?” 

The Police Athletic League offers three game-types that young athletes transition through as they grow older. Children six to eight play flag football before transitioning to padded flag, a limited contact game-type, for ages seven to ten. They finish in the program playing tackle at 11 and 12 years old.  

“There is an inspirational moment with each athlete. You look at each kid, look at their unique challenges and upbringing and are just be impressed with the fact that they are there and growing as a person,” said Lannswift. “For me, that’s the most inspirational – when you compare a kid who came in at age six to who they are at age 12 and you can see the positive impact that playing football had on their development and character.” 

Fort Wayne’s Police Athletic League is well acquainted with USA Football through the non-profit’s accredited coach certification and grants program. The league previously received a $1,500 grant that provided equipment for five additional young athletes. All Police Athletic League coaches are certified by USA Football.  

“USA football pushes football forward,” said Lannswift. “Athlete safety is at the foremost part of every parent’s mind. By contrast, coaches and athletes many times are focused on other things like winning, having fun, etc. USA football helps to bridge that gap and advocates strongly for the game of football that we all love.”