By Brent Glasgow
USA Football and high school coaches associations in 37 states recently announced the formation of the National High School Football Coaches Alliance. The organization looks to foster frequent and meaningful collaboration between its members, advance best practices across high school football, and unite and serve its coaching community.
“Helping form and assist the Alliance is consistent with how we have served the high school coaching community for years,” USA Football CEO Scott Hallenbeck said. “This is a community formed by coaches for coaches. They are teachers and mentors – their work is self-giving and inspires student-athletes to be their best both on the field and off it. The formation of this Alliance presents a powerful opportunity for us all to share and learn from each other to keep football growing and moving forward.”
The Alliance, led by state high school association directors, will provide access to unique and progressive professional development and continuing education platforms, digital and physical coaching tools, and communication vehicles that extend beyond state borders.
Coaches association leaders met in January in Orlando, Fla., at USA Football’s National Conference, which featured dozens of strategic workshops and presentations. The event also included memorable talks by Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker and now-Texas high school football coach Mike Singletary, Super Bowl champion quarterback and on-air personality Trent Dilfer, and Florida Senator Marco Rubio.
The coaches convened with USA Football to discuss forming the Alliance, to benefit their members and football-playing student-athletes across the country.
“This is a significant ‘first’ for high school football,” said Oregon Athletic Coaches Association Executive Director Rob Younger, who will serve as the inaugural Alliance president. “The Alliance will bring coaches together in ways we’ve not seen before and will strengthen our community through USA Football’s exceptional and vast coaching resources.”
Over dinner at USA Football’s 2016 National Conference, Younger, Indiana Football Coaches Association Director Bob Gaddis and Nebraska Coaches Association Executive Director Darin Boysen discussed how other national coaching groups had fallen shy of stated goals. Although useful conversations, they would often dissipate at the end of a convention and pick up again the following year.
The trio eventually approached Hallenbeck about forming a meaningful and national organization for high school coaches. After a lengthy meeting with association leaders at this year’s National Conference, a framework and leadership team took shape.
“Everybody had nothing but positive remarks about it, and it just kind of took off,” Younger said. “There’s a lot of excitement about what we can do moving forward.”
Gaddis, whose state-champion Columbus East High School program was part of the sport’s Power of Football campaign last fall, said, “I think we’ve come to some good collaborative decisions for what’ll be good for our sport, and in particular, a unified voice for high school football. When we gathered in Orlando, it was great to see so many guys from throughout the country. A lot of the time, we’re all dealing with the same things. What’ll be most exciting is how we identify how we can help coaches at all levels.”
The Alliance’s physical and digital platforms will be powered by USA Football, the sport’s national governing body and the only member of the U.S. Olympic Committee dedicated solely to football.
“It’s for coaches, by coaches — but we couldn’t do it without USA Football, because they provide such an important part with their educational resources,” Younger said. “They’re just the perfect partner for us.”
Gaddis said USA Football’s view of high school coaches as the sport’s leaders in their respective cities and towns is paying dividends.
“I think what it says is we should be the faces of football in our communities, in how high school, middle school and youth football all come together,” he said. “That way we can consistently train our coaches and our kids, and communicate with the public.”
Boysen said while each state is different, coaches’ goals and concerns remain the same, including their increasingly progressive view on contact and safety.
“One of the positive things we can do is let people know how the game has progressed,” he said. “The game is safer than it’s ever been, but you don’t hear that, so it’s our job to get out there and inform people .”
Another plus, Gaddis said, is that the Alliance can present a unified front when necessary, like in situations such as last year’s decision by the Big Ten Conference to play games on Friday night, which drew scorn from coaches and football people across the country.
“When that news came out, we wondered how we could get all the coaches together in one voice,” Gaddis said. “Now we have a way to accomplish that.”
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