By Dan Guttenplan, FNF Coaches Editor
USA Football is the only organization in the sport that provides high school players the opportunity to represent their country while gaining instruction from and training under current college coaches. The USA Football National Program has high performance pathways in non-contact and contact.
Q&A with USA Football National Program Senior Manager Aaron Ingram
Senior Manager of the USA Football National Program Aaron Ingram is tasked with building the best coaching staff at every level of the U.S. National Team program by sorting through a pool of 1,600 candidates. He hires more than 1,000 coaches for the Regional Development Camps and selects the best of the best to represent the United States against international competition.
Ingram recently joined the FNF Coaches podcast to share how coaches and players across the country can get involved in the National Team program.
What is the process for coaches who want to get involved with the USA Football National Program?
“This year, right before COVID pulled the plug, we had 1,600 coaches in the pool running for 18 regionals. The process is a lengthy one and can be overwhelming at times. We go through the applications like it’s a job. My staff scours applications and does the background homework; sometimes, we do a phone interview. We’re going into our 12th year with the program, so we’re starting to get a lot of return coaches who fall in love with the process like I have.”
What should a coach do if he/she wants to get involved in the program?
“The process to get it started is to go to usafootball.com/programs/national-team/coach/. That’s the first step. It’s rare that we’ll hire coaches without seeing them in a regional development camp for two days in t-shirts and shorts. That’s boots-on-the-ground fundamental football. We want to see a coach get into it and be an outstanding communicator and teacher.”
And how would a coach nominate a player?
“That same spot has a link for recommending players. We’re always looking for players. It’s a nonstop process. There’s not a time of year when we’re not looking at players, not looking at film, and not looking for the next great one.”
Q&A with USA Football Director of High Performance Eric Mayes
As the Director of High Performance for USA Football, Eric Mayes works to develop a pathway for players to perform at the highest level while representing the U.S. National Team.
He recently shared his goals for the USA Football National Program.
What is the High Performance aspect of the job?
“We select the National Teams for traditional tackle and flag. In other sports, the governing bodies work to engage communities to create local footprints. To play this sport at the highest level, we want to develop pathways to our National Team. Once we have that map, we can pour those resources into athletes to get them to compete against the highest international competition. The pathway is a pipeline with regional development camps. We want to take players through tackle or flag and have them compete at the highest level.”
What does the international competition look like?
“The International Federation of American Football (IFAF) has divisions for both tackle and noncontact. There are approximately 70 countries affiliated in some shape or form. Many European countries field competitive teams. Japan is fairly competitive. There is a large footprint in Canada and Mexico. The IFAF has been running the world championships for men’s and women’s adult teams, as well as U19 and U20. USA Football has assisted in fielding those teams.”
What is the best way for players to get involved — whether it be contact or non-contact?
“On the contact side, we have a player interest form and coach nomination form on the website. We select players to invite for Combines and Regional Development Camps. Then, we select players to represent the U.S. at international competitions. On the executive side, we have two pathways to the World Games in Birmingham (Ala.) in 2022. We’re also going to hold a National Team Trial Combine model at one of our events over the summer of 2021. We’ll use that information and evaluations to help field preliminary rosters to participate in the World Games.”
Interested in the USA Football National Program?
If you would like to apply to be a coach or recommend a player, please visit usafootball.com/programs/national-team/coach/