For the fourth consecutive year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the NFL have recognized USA Football as the sport's expert in youth player development and coaching education. During the Buccaneers' 30-28 victory over the New England Patriots last Friday night, an evening-long celebration showed just how committed the team is to developing the next generation of Buccaneers.
Friday's celebration of USA Football Month, something that took place in every NFL city during the month of August, saluted the primary goal of this nonprofit organization: to teach the game's fundamentals and further instill the sport's character-building values within the youth football community.
Indianapolis-based USA Football is the official youth football development partner of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the NFL, and the NFL Players Association.
During pregame introductions on Friday night, 90 youth football and cheerleading participants from the Brandon Lions, Carrollwood Cardinals and Highland Pines Cougars organizations helped welcome the Buccaneers to the field. Each of the three football clubs was vandalized this summer by unknown intruders who stole youth football equipment and damaged one of their concessions facilities. In response to these crimes, the Buccaneers donated a total of $14,500 to help the three organizations cover their losses. On Friday, select individuals from the three clubs also joined former Buccaneers kicker Martin Gramatica as honorary captains during the coin toss.
"It's a very, very great experience," said Highland Pines Cougars Commissioner Kelvin Williams. "A lot of these kids have never experienced this type of thing. They are all excited, the whole organization is overwhelmed about the process and happy that the Bucs [were] able to choose us to be a part of this activity."
Added Clyde Wint, president and coach for the Brandon Lions: "It is extremely important. It shows me that the Buccaneers do care about the youth football organizations in the area."
In conjunction with USA Football Month, the Mighty Mites of West Tampa Spartans, the University Area Bulls and the Zephyrhills Bulldogs also held a scrimmage on the Raymond James Stadium field during halftime. In addition, the Buccaneers hosted thousands of local youth football and cheerleading participants as special guests in recognition of USA Football Month.
Approximately three million children ages 6-14 play organized tackle football in the United States, placing the game among the country's most popular youth sports. More than 400,000 American adults volunteer their time to teach and coach youth football each year.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers host a wide variety of youth football programs throughout the year, including the Buccaneers' Play 60 Challenge, Gatorade Junior Training Camp and the NFL Punt, Pass and Kick program. These initiatives not only help children and their families enjoy the game of football, but also serve as a resource for coaches to help promote a positive experience for youth football participants. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are dedicated to educating children and coaches about the National Football League and enhancing the skills of young athletes both on and off the field.
This season, that dedication will be highlighted by the launch of "Heads Up Football," which emphasizes a smarter and safer way to play and teach youth football.
"Heads Up Football" incorporates USA Football's nationally accredited online coaching education program, which has trained more than 80,000 volunteer youth coaches since 2007. Its curriculum covers football's fundamentals and player safety content, including concussion awareness and management protocols, player hydration and proper equipment fitting. USA Football has partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to promote safer play since 2007.
"Heads Up Football" information, including how to teach proper tackling skills to youth players, is available at no cost at www.usafootball.com.