When Wayne Vance walked through the front doors of One Buccaneer Place, he could barely contain his excitement.
"It's like another shrine," said the Spring Hill Athletic Association coach. "Anyone who's a football fan would love the opportunity to walk through that place and look at the trophy and the statues up front. Even if USA Football wasn't holding their event, that would be reason enough to make the trip."
This summer, Vance will visit another noted football shrine: The Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The event at One Buccaneer Place was the USA Football West Florida Leadership Forum, where youth football leaders throughout the region gathered on March 5. The annual meeting provides local coaches and league administrators with an opportunity to network and learn ways to enhance their coaching tactics and youth football leagues.
At Spring Hill, an athletic association comprised of approximately 140 youth football players living throughout Hernando County, Vance is charged with overseeing the development of young players from cities including Spring Hill, Brooksville and Weeki Wachee. The opportunity to network with men and women in similar positions will help him serve those young athletes even more effectively.
"You get all the information from USA Football that they have to put out that's new or pertinent," said Vance. "You've got the other coaches there with their input, and it kind of helps you, whether it's fundraising or buying equipment or rules that you may not have heard of or thought of that kind of come up, that present stuff in your mind as you get ready to head into the season. The resources are just phenomenal."
Vance will soon gain access to a whole new set of resources, thanks to his visit to One Buc. During the state Forum in Tampa, USA Football selected him to represent the Buccaneers' market at the 2011 NFL/USA Football Youth Football Summit from July 20-21 in Canton, Ohio, home of the Hall of Fame.
"I look forward to the opportunity," Vance said. "I've always wanted to go to Canton on my own. I hope to see what other leagues around the country are dealing with and get something useful to bring back and use in our little pond. I'm going to listen and learn."
USA Football's West Florida Forum is among dozens of meetings that the nonprofit holds across the country to share best practices within the youth football community. As the official youth football development partner of the Buccaneers and the NFL, USA Football's 2011 State Leadership Forum schedule will reach hundreds of youth football league commissioners nationwide and thus impact approximately 20,000 coaches and 500,000 players.
"The dedicated volunteers who power youth football - youth league commissioners - unite and share their knowledge and ideas at our forums nationwide," USA Football Executive Director Scott Hallenbecksaid. "We're pleased to have Wayne contribute to this discussion on a national level at this summer's youth football summit in Canton, thanks to the support of the NFL and its players."
The NFL/USA Football Youth Summit, funded by the NFL and its players, assembles nearly 200 youth and high school football coaches from all 50 states and Washington, D.C., along with youth football league commissioners. Among the summit's participants are former NFL players who now coach high school football.
Among the topics to be discussed at the NFL/USA Football Youth Summit in Canton, Ohio:
- Inspiring youngsters to reach their potential as people and football players;
- USA Football's CDC-approved concussion awareness and management information;
- Role-playing demonstrations regarding coach-player-parent relationships.
To Vance, an opportunity such as this wouldn't be possible without the support of the local NFL franchise.
"They play a big role in kids and youth sports," said Vance. "The amount of support that the Buccaneers give the local community to even coaches like myself, by inviting me into their house and giving me resources and trying to help promote the sport and make it fun for kids so they can learn, is invaluable. Just being there and helping is phenomenal."
The Buccaneers and the NFL made a major commitment to invest in football's future with the establishment of the NFL Youth Football Fund (YFF). Programs such as USA Football help the Buccaneers support youth and high school football and ensure the grassroots of the sport stay strong for future generations.
"It is the Buccaneers' goal to improve the educational opportunities for youth by working with organizations that promote positive youth development," said Miray Holmes, the team's director of community relations. "With the help of USA Football, Central Florida youth are provided more positive, structured learning environments. We look forward to continuing to develop this relationship and enhancing the football experience for our athletes, coaches and families."
USA Football, the sport's national governing body, hosts more than 80 football training events annually offering education for coaches and game officials, skill development for players and resources for youth football league commissioners. The organization also manages U.S. national teams within the sport for international competitions and provides more than $1 million annually in equipment grants and youth league volunteer background check subsidies.
Endowed by the NFL and NFLPA in 2002 through the NFL Youth Football Fund, USA Football is chaired by former NFL team executive Carl Peterson. To learn more, visit www.usafootball.com.