If you've followed any of the CAYA social media during the offseason, you may have noticed some talk about the USA Football National Conference at the NFL Pro Bowl this past January. I learned about this event way back in September and knew instantly there was nothing keeping me from at least attending the conference. Back in the fall I just wanted to have the experience. As January's board elections resulted in me appointment to CAYA Vice President, I realized I had a bigger purpose for going to Orlando: to Make CAYA Great again.
I didn't know what to expect but I figured I'd gain some incredible insights and techniques to bring back and implement in my new role. Of course, the potential of seeing or meeting some of the legends in the game's past and present was a good consolation. But as the days drew nearer to departure and the itinerary continued to build (you can still view the conference schedule, with session details at https://nationalconference.usafootball.com/schedule/), I was sure golden nuggets of information was coming back to CAYA.
But I couldn’t do this alone. There was too much going on; too many informative sessions for just one person to attend. There were live field demonstrations to watch, a venders’ hall to peruse, and seminars to sit in; sometimes 7 different sessions occurring all at the same time. Coach Ryan McNeal, our new Football Director, came to the rescue. A week out, we mapped out a simple plan of attack and prepared ourselves for a weekend of enlightenment and motivation, all centered around the game of football. Here is a brief recap of the weekend’s highlights.
USA Football CEO Scott Hallenbeck. You can watch the live broadcast of the speeches by clicking the video.
Almost instantly after the welcoming pleasantries, Ryan and I split to different seminar halls. I sat in on the Non-Profit Governance for Youth Leagues, presented by Tod Creneti of Positive Coaching Alliance. Tod asked some of the basic questions that tend to be overlooked due to the mounting tasks and duties leadership must assume when taking over. Questions like “What is your vision?” “What is the ultimate imapact you hope to have through your sports program?” It also introduced me to their free resource library that was described as the WebMD of youth sports. It contained answers and articles to any question you may drum up regarding amateur sports and provided information for every role involved, from the athletes to the referee to the administrator.
First tool added to the tool box.
Meanwhile, Ryan was attending the session covering Youth Football League Operations, presented by Terry and Mary Hyde. There, the Hydes shared the skills to begin and maintain a youth program, including aspects such as coach selection, player registration and recruitment, training techniques, financial organization, community involvement, and relationship building with high school programs.
Glue to keep the organization together.
We met back up to hear the opening keynote filled with riveting speeches by Senator Marco Rubio, USA Football CEO Scott Hallenbeck, former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Roman Oben, Football Hall of Fame President David Baker and Hall of Famer Cris Carter. You can now see the Keynote speeches of each day on the USA Football YouTube channel.
We then ended the night with live field demonstrations of the Shoulder Tackle and Tip of the Spear Contact systems, two revolutionary concepts set to make the game even safer.
A Vendor Village representative showing "the goods". Click the image to watch Hall of Famer Mike Singletary's speech
The morning didn’t pique any general interest for us in regards to the Organization, so we spent most of the morning in vendor village, hearing pitches and testing innovative equipment. The conference hall was buzzing, as coaches and administrators were networking, “talking shop” and exchanging schemes, tactics, and strategies with each other. Formations and plays were written on paper, dry erase board and even glass window panes. It was just an amazing experience to see such a sea of football knowledge of every imaginable level mixing and mingling freely. Our biggest draw of the day: listening to Hall of Famer and Chicago Bears legend Mike Singletary.
We knew the last day of the conference had the promise of a rainy Pro Bowl but this was more of the event I was looking for. There was a session entitled Social Media Management. After the year we had, that was a must. The day was capped with a speech by Super Bowl QB Trent Dilfer, and two sessions. Former NFL DB, Rhodes Scholar and now Dr. Myron Rolle shared his experiences as he progressed through his football career and onto dealing with the demanding transition to neurosurgeon. Lastly, we sat in on “Growing the Game in your Community” by New Canaan (CT) High school Head Coach Lou Marinelli and New Canaan Youth Football League President Wendy Cunney, who shared their experiences of integrating the high school and youth programs into a fluid relationship and together, enhancing and promoting the football culture in their community.
Then we went to the NFL Pro Bowl.
Ultimately, this weekend was anything but a waste. It was definitely more than just a bunch of famous people giving long motivational speeches about leadership. There were well thought out messages and ideas to gain; new resources to acquire, new relationships built through networking and new challenges to achieve. I came back excited and energized with countless notes and ideas to make CAYA better; not just for this year, but for the years to come. I can’t wait to attend next year. Hopefully I can bring more along with me.
I hope CAYA can send more to this conference in the future. A trip to Orlando doesn’t have to cost much! Here are the projected expenses.
|Item Description/ unit Cost||Qty||Total Cost|
|Registration for each member:$99||2||$198|
|Hotel room** for 2 to share: $150/Night||3 (Thurs – Sun)||$450|
$650 (+ Tax)
**We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express on International Dr. It was walking distance (2.5 miles) away from the Convention Center. In hind site, an Uber wouldn't be hard either.
|Pro Bowl Tickets ($60 - $85)||2||$170|
|Hotel Room Outside of Conference Dates||1 (Mon)||$150|