Reducing contact and encouraging athletic progression through the game and skills is the core of the Football Development Model (FDM). Below you’ll learn the foundational pillars of the model and how it centers on age-appropriate teaching, step-by-step methods for skill development, and multiple ways to play.
These six pillars are heart of the Football Development Model. When working together, they create the blueprint to better athletes and better football players.
When fully adopted, we believe the game will be more accessible and allow more athletes to participate. We also believe this will create better players and a better experience.
Offering sports based on age is common. In fact, baseball, basketball, soccer, and hockey are examples that come to mind. One of the benefits in our model is a more comprehensive structure to teaching and playing football in a progression that is age-appropriate and by the game that is being played.
Programs that follow the model and embrace age-appropriate instruction will ensure athletes experience the game the right way, in an environment suited for their stage of development. These age-based stages help us teach the game in the proper progression.
It's not enough to make football players better at football. The Football Development Model builds upon life-long values and lessons of the sport by going beyond teaching football skills.
Football creates opportunities to help athletes advance their thinking, feeling and behaving abilities. USA Football’s coach curriculum – built on the model’s principles – provides resources to guide that growth, from character development to teaching methods that meet athletes cognitive, social and emotional needs.
Understanding how athletes learn is essential and through the model coaches will discover tactics to better teach their players. An athlete’s attention span is limited and they don’t process instructions as fast as adults do. Kids will make mistakes, and that’s okay. Coaches that take USA Football’s Youth Coach Certification this year will learn how to adjust their teaching style to match the thinking abilities at their team’s stage of development.
Athletes process competition, with each other and within a game, differently than adults. For them, ability and effort are often the same. They also tend to forget more quickly than adults and are ready to move on to the next thing. The age-based resources within this year's USA Football Youth Coach Certification will help train coaches to understand that athletes’ emotions are just as important as their technical skills on the football field.
Each age level presents different challenges when it comes to an athlete’s behavior. Whether that athlete is engaging with their surroundings, a peer or their coach, it’s important that adults know how to manage the situation. How a coach helps athletes interact with one another and their surroundings will be covered in the age-based resources within this year's USA Football Youth Coach Certification for coaches.
Football offers a wide range of physical activities and skills, not all of which are simple to learn, teach or perform. The model aligns skills in a step-by-step progression to make them easier to grasp and teach.
These Skill Progressions contain Skill Elements and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that vary in complexity as an athlete advances stage by stage. This approach to skill development helps coaches choose appropriate drills while providing a consistent coach-to-player language.
Technical football fundamentals and abilities are recognized as skills. Skills can be developed in a variety of environments, whether that's on the practice field or in a game. Skills translate across various versions of the game, from non-contact flag all the way to contact tackle football.
A Skill Element is part of the Skill Progression that makes up a Skill. Skill Elements are always arranged in the same step-by-step order, regardless of age or stage of development. Occasionally, some contact-specific Skill Elements are not necessary or slightly modified for a specific non-contact or limited contact game type.
KPIs are the root actions or movements that identify reasons for good or poor performance within a specific Skill Element. KPIs illustrate what successful performance looks like. Unlike Skill Elements, which are almost always the same, more KPIs are highlighted as an athlete develops or participates in more advanced game types, which will further hone that athlete’s overall skill development.
Teaching the right fundamentals of a skill at the right time keeps sports fun and fulfilling. This outlook avoids overwhelming athletes while helping them grow successfully at a steady pace.
Starting with a step-by-step approach for each Skill – called a Skill Progression -- helps athletes achieve success before adding complexity. Once the basics of a skill are mastered, coaches can add more KPIs that help an athlete develop and compete at a higher level to achieve more success.
There are many ways to play. Non-contact allows athletes to experience many of the positions and skills of football, often on smaller and shorter fields with fewer players.
Flag is the primary game type in this category, and it’s a fun, fast-paced version of the sport played by millions of athletes and adults. Whether a player stays in Flag or moves onto another way to play, the core values of this game establish a strong foundation for athletic success.
This game category begins to teach new principles and helps coaches introduce contact while reducing the overall amount of athlete contact.
Game types feature smaller fields with fewer players and introduce the skills of blocking and defeating blocks. In some game types, players will learn how to tackle by wrapping properly without taking opponents to the ground.
Contact football can be played in many ways – from the game we see on Sundays to small-sided games with fewer athletes. There are many ways to play Contact football.
Rookie Tackle® is a game type that condenses the field and adds rule modifications to make it more manageable and fun. Another game type is full-field tackle football, which is the game we’re all familiar with, often featuring 11 players on each side.
From flag to traditional tackle, USA Football has outlined the progression of game types to give leagues and players options to share and play the game. These game types, in addition to the skill and age progressions, help reduce contact and make the game safer.