The free app, called Coach Planner by USA Football, was built by the governing body of the sport as part of the Football Development Model that aligns with the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee’s American Development Model. The FDM is designed to aid in the progression of the whole athlete based on a child’s age and stage of development.
Coaches, who are often parents of the players, teach athletes based on their age, skill level and the version of the sport that they prefer, from flag football to 11-player tackle and game types in between. More than 100 football drills and 12 prescribed practice plans are loaded on the app, with more to come.
“If we plan something, it has to be scaleable and global,” said Michael Krueger, USA Football’s senior director of football education. “With technical skill progressions, it helps provide context for the developmental stage of the athlete and for their coaching. A 7-year old is at a way different stage than a 12-year old. The neatest thing about the app is it helps provide that kind of resource and support in the space where we may not have coaches with extensive background. Their knowledge could be extensive or limited. The resources here run the gamut.”
For example, if coaches have been involved in the sport for a decade or more, reinforcement of their techniques is available on the app. But if the coaches are newcomers or relatively inexperienced, there are programs available for them as well.
“It does speak to the differences in coaches,” Krueger says, “their approaches and backgrounds, and it’s built on the expertise within the sport.” The app took a bit over a year to develop; Football Canada already had one for its youth organizations and provided some guidance to its neighbors in the states. USA Football has nearly 900 youth clubs and leagues already enrolled in the development model, and the app can provide the coaching services currently not available because of the shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
It includes six categories for player development: athletic foundations; passing; running and receiving; kicking and punting; preparation for contact; flag pulling and tackling. “We have to take the reality of the situation, and the app is a great example of touch points,” Krueger explained. “How can we be a resource with kids at home? We have taken on that challenge.”
Critical to the success of the FDM are such touch points as ensuring that playbooks and drills are easily usable, and for coaches to connect with their teams and players’ parents. to connect. Through the app, they can share all the content needed to teach the sport.
“We want to make sure this really addresses the things parents could do with their kids at home while in shelter,” added Jamie Riley, USA Football’s chief of staff. “When this rolls out, they can take it and run with it at home.
“As a mom, I can attest to the importance of making sure parents understand and are involved in what their child learns on the field and the Coach Planner app helps them get there. We know nothing is as effective as in-person and face-to-face (learning), yet the app is a great bridge to that."
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