Corning Youth Football reaps benefits from USA Football’s grants, education and resources

By Natasha Malone | Posted 4/7/2023

Corning Youth Football, a New York-based non-profit youth football league comprised of 100 kids ranging from first to sixth grade, utilizes all tools and resources USA Football has to offer, including grants, coach certification and additional education and operational materials.

President of Corning Youth Football Matt Rhodes has spent the majority of his life coaching football at the varsity level, but he and his counterparts knew change was needed when they sat down to discuss the future of youth programs in the area. They were unsure of what route to take, until they came across USA Football.

“We started examining youth football in the area and immediately knew that something needed to be done. We need to do better at the youth level, so we started looking around and that is when we came across USA Football and their rules, regulations and the grants offered,” Rhodes said. “We were fortunate enough to receive a grant, which helped with many things. We used the rules and regulations as our blueprint for how we teach, and now we are in our third year and the numbers keep trending in a positive direction.”

Financial limitations sometimes prevent youth football organizations from operating at the levels they strive to reach. Fortunately, for Corning Youth Football, they received the Spring Operations Grant, fulfilled through Riddell, which greatly assisted them in their efforts to generate the change they strived to see in their youth programs.

“My goodness! Football is expensive, and you must stay up to date on all equipment. It adds up very fast, so the grant money we got from USA Football goes directly to things such as player safety equipment,” Rhodes said. “We are a non-profit organization, so that helps a lot. I don’t know where we would be if it were not for USA Football’s grant programs. Without the basics like equipment, you can’t even play.”

“It [USA Football’s grants program] means that we can get quality people to help us out and give the kids all the tools they need to be successful on and off the field,” Rhodes explained. “Everything we do all goes right back into the kids, so any money that we receive is crucial.”

Corning Youth Football also takes advantage of USA Football’s coach certification program, which gives the league an opportunity to grow with the game of football as they continue to educate and train their personnel.

“I’ve coached varsity football for 20 years now. The sport has changed dramatically from the time I played high school sports and even college,” Rhodes said. “The proper training for coaches is vital. Football has changed, and we have to change with it. Being certified and taking those courses through USA Football is a big factor in that. I think that it makes you understand the program’s importance. We saw we needed to have certified coaches at the youth level who are properly equipped and trained in how to do the basics like tackling and blocking.”

Rhodes believes that the key contributing factor to Corning Youth Football’s success has been educating the parents on the operational standards and requirements as many were initially hesitant with the league’s direction.

“I think one of the most important things has been the education for parents,” Rhodes said. “When we first started doing this, we had parents questioning why their kids weren’t hitting as much. I explained to them the importance of limiting the amount of full contact and let them know there are ways to still be really good at football while not just pitting two kids against each other. We don’t do that anymore, so the education with coaches and parents was of the utmost importance, and USA Football’s program really has helped them understand how we are coaching and why we are coaching this way. The parents were on board once I spoke with them, and we started winning games.”

“It’s not tackle football that’s bad, it’s the way that it is being taught,” said Rhodes. “When a governing body paves the way and says, ‘this is how it is supposed to be taught,’ then things are a lot safer, and I think that’s what USA Football is doing. If you are involved with USA Football on any level, you are the real deal. I think that it has separated us from the other leagues in the area.”