Sandwiched between a pair of pivotal board meetings over the last 30 days the NGYFA was invited to attend the USA Football National Conference in Indianapolis February 21-23. As one of the Top 100 leagues in the country the NGYFA participated in USA's event that was planned simultaneously with the NFL's annual pre-draft combine.
"This is a special event," said USA Football Executive Director, Scott Hallenbeck. "We're working with the NFL to target the largest, most influential leagues in the country. Our goal, in conjunction with the league office and all 32 franchises, is to provide the best education and networking opportunity in the world."
Kicking off Friday evening the event was 48 hours of some of the nation's most well-known football minds such as Marvin Lewis, Merrill Hoge, Jim Tressel, Bill Polian, Rosevelt Colvin and Grant Teaff. "We hope that the impact of the speakers and their message translate back to the community of each attendee," said Evan Lindsey, USA Football Southeast Region Director. "I know it's impacted me."
With opportunities to network with other leagues around the country and connect professionally with USA Football business the opportunity was hard to pass up for many youth league Commissioners. "I had a plan when I left home," said NGYFA Commissioner, Colton Green. "Having recently nailed down agreements with Bonzi and HUDL one of my priorities was to meet directly with those guys to establish a personal relationship prior to the season. In addition, the opportunity to see old friends like Ralph Clinton (Commissioner of Georgia's North Metro Youth Football League) and Gary DelVecchio (USA Football) and meet new friends like Ryan Dana (Utah), Kenny Jones (Alabama) and Kevin Cruz (Lee County, Ga) is something that is always beneficial to people in this business."
"I came with ideas and left with a bucket fool of contacts and tools to make them happen," said Green. "This is an event that I look forward to and certainly one that youth Commissioners are grateful for. We're proud to be a part of USA and realize that the NFL's investment is something everyone can be excited about."
Moving into the 2014 season the NGYFA will be able to proudly offer three major upgrades. First, six months of work have finally paid off in finalizing a deal with game film specialist HUDL (www.hudl.com). The NGYFA's deal is financially tiered to encourage maximum participation at the league level. While the tiered deal was part of making it possible the NGYFA was intent on removing all financial obstacles for coaches to have access to HUDL's youth elite package. "Our goal, first, was to make it affordable," said Green. "Every youth team in the NGYFA can have access to their own HUDL account for $49. Last season, the same package was only available through a 10% discount off of retail for $279."
With more and more coaches capitalizing on the benefits of game film the HUDL deal is sure to have an immediate but lasting impact on the NGYFA. "We're only aware of one other youth league that's charted this territory," said HUDL representative Daniel Mickells. "The NGYFA certainly brought some things to our attention that we hadn't made available in existing packages. We're excited to work with their coaches and staff for the 2014 season."
Second, with the NGYFA's adjustment from a per team registration to a per player registration a relationship with USA Football's official online registration provider, Bonzi, became paramount. The NGYFA's goal to transition on a league level to Bonzi's registration platform was driven by the desire to make the registration, team accounting and player data process as easy as possible for parents and park directors and their volunteers. "We'll be looking to register between 6,000 to 6,500 kids this season using the software. Paper isn't a feasible option. My number one priority in this process is ensuring its user-friendly. However, a close second is working to guarantee that our business model is sustainable for years to come," said Green.
While parents and coaches won't ever see a Bonzi webpage Park Directors will be receiving training on a conference level over the next 30 days. "We've booked four webcasts with the folks in Seattle," said Green. "It's February now but by the time everyone blinks we'll all be closing registration and ordering uniforms. We've got to be ready."
Lastly, the NGYFA is focused on using its biggest asset- sustained growth- to the league's advantage. A generation ago parks played internally and, oftentimes, were limited to the resources within their own park. In 2014, the NGYFA has multiple events planned in conjunction with the NFL, Atlanta Falcons, Kids and Pros and Youth Football Coaching specialist Dave Cisar.
Monday, March 3rd Buddy Curry and the Atlanta Falcons are heading to Watkinsville (Oconee County) to lead a youth clinic focusing on teaching youth players Heads Up Football. In addition to the youth component this event will feature a parent aspect where Buddy speaks directly to the parents in attendance, sharing directly with them the impact of Heads Up Football and what USA Football is doing to further the attempt at making a better, safer game.
On July 26th the league will be hosting its first annual NGYFA Coaches Clinic presented by Athens Orthopedic Clinic. The lead speaker will be Dave Cisar (www.winningyouthfootball.com) who will touch on topics ranging from practice organization, installing new defenses in youth football, game day management, building team chemistry and building better running backs. In addition to access to Cisar's cache of knowledge AOC will be presenting information on heat related illnesses and proper injury care for youth football players. Event organizers are working to close the event by incorporating USA Football's Heads Up Training program at the end of the day. "In talking with Buddy Curry (former Falcon and Kids and Pros) and Chris Millman (Atlanta Falcons, Community Program Manager) we're looking to make this a top notch event complete with elite coaching of every aspect of the game," said Green.
The event will be limited to the first 300 NGYFA coaches. Registration will be available in the coming weeks.
Although most parks, parents and coaches are transitioning to baseball or soccer the NGYFA is in the ready position ready to leap into the new season. "There really is no off season," said Green. "Even though we 'finish' before Thanksgiving there really is no 'finish line'."