Pro Bowl weekend, I traveled down to Orlando Florida to attend my first USA Football National Conference not truly knowing what to expect. This was the fourth National Conference USA Football had put on; but the first held at the Pro Bowl & down in Florida, a hot bed of high school coaching. I'm writing this recap primarily to let you guys know how impressed I was with the entire event because (as you will hear in my video below) I think this is one event more high school coaches should plan to attend next year (Orlando, FL again).
I'll dive into the details a bit below but I feel my video might give you the best sense of my thoughts on the overall event. In short, if you coach high school ball, or want to spend a quality weekend with some of the best high school coaches in the country, this is a great event to attend. While this year's conference was far and away the best attended so far (I'd estimate close to 2,000 people attended), I expect attendance to continue to grow in the future.
— FootballScoop Staff (@FootballScoop) February 8, 2017
Nearly all of the coaches arrived Friday & most of the sessions began late afternoon.
Buzz sessions had already kicked off by the time I arrived with high school coaches using video & white boards to share with 40-50 other coaches in a small setting. This is great stuff and I always enjoy seeing the level of details coaches get into in this type of setting. Buzz sessions carried on throughout the event & the area established for these sessions was always a hot spot.
The larger session talks were educational, informational & in many cases inspiring. USA Football's leadership team gave a great overview of where they see the future of the game going & the importance of the role the coach & administrator plays in continuing to enhance the game. Speakers like Jon Gruden, Bill Polian, Desmond Howard, Ray Lewis & Merril Hoge were on point.
The educational discussions, led by well known high school, college & NFL coaches (& others) were worth your time as well. I sat through a fascinating talk by former Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine in which he gave the audience several excellent ideas to help them ensure they keep on the right path to a rewarding career.
The "exhibit hall" was structured far better than the cavernous exhibit hall at the AFCA. I liked that USA Football had a demonstration field within the exhibit hall & thought it was very generous of them to provide breakfast, snacks & drinks to all attendees. Trust me when I say this, no one left this conference saying, man I wish there had been more food for us.
Oh, did I mention food? Yes, yes I did. Included in the $99 fee to attend the conference was plenty of food & drinks. Friday night a cocktail reception preceded a great meal including some rather tasty lamb chops. Oh & there were plenty of desserts in case anyone was wondering. Breakfast was provided both days as was a huge lunch spread Saturday.
While the food was great, the opportunity to sit & visit with coaches from across the country was even better. At other conferences you don't always get these opportunities. The level of camaraderie & sharing of ideas at this conference was off the charts.
Saturday night I chose to attend two of the football games between the US National U-18 & U-19 teams as they played their counterparts from Canada. The US won both games & the level of play on the field was impressively high.
Sunday morning, following a great breakfast, Merril Hoge wowed the room. He's an impressive guy to listen to as he describes what drove him to work so hard on the field.
At the airport I visited with several high school coaches from all over the place. Each one of us said there was no doubt we'd come back, and would encourage others to do the same. Tip of the cap to USA Football for putting on such a first class conference. Already looking forward to Orlando 2018...