Ohio youth football leaders gather at Pro Football Hall of Fame

Ohio youth football leaders gather at Pro Football Hall of Fame

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Commissioners from across the Buckeye State discuss the issues the drive the game at the grassroots level

By Joe Frollo, USA Football
Special to Profootballhof.com

The Pro Football Hall of Fame is a destination for fans to experience and learn the game’s magnificent history.
On Saturday, Feb. 12, the Hall of Fame also served as a springboard for the sport’s future as youth league commissioners from across Ohio gathered in Canton for USA Football’s annual Youth Football State Leadership Forum.

More than 30 representatives from all corners of the Buckeye state met for five hours to discuss challenges they faced and successes they have found. They shared ideas and concerns for the direction of the game at the grassroots level at the event conducted by USA Football, the national governing body of the sport.

John Prochaska of the Great Lakes Football League in suburban Cleveland said he enjoyed the open and frank discussions with other league leaders who are facing similar issues within their leagues.

“I really like the forum setup where we can come together and bounce ideas off each other,” said Prochaska, who as league president oversees more than 1,000 players. “You hear the challenges that people have had and their triumphs as well. It helps to bring ideas back to our own leagues.”

John Helsel of the Karl J. Fulton Pony League in Columbus is a commissioner who oversees 10 leagues with a combined 1,600 players.

He attended the 2010 state forums but returned to hear fresh ideas that can help his community.

“I always pick up something new,” Helsel said. “I made two pages of notes on different things I want to pass to other presidents of the individual leagues and their coaches. There are always easier ways to do things. I want to get them geared up to where they are all doing things the same way I am.”

It’s also a chance for Helsel to meet others who share his passion for youth football.

“There are guys here who live maybe 10 miles from me, and I’d never met them,” Helsel said. “There’s a lot of information to be passed around, and I’ve always needed a way to get in contact with them.”

Topics included finding the right coaches and volunteers, background checks, expanding membership, weight limits, making connections with area high schools and expanding awareness of a league beyond the fall season.

The group learned about improving financial literacy for youth leagues from Donald Pavlik of PNC Bank. USA Football Great Lakes Regional Manager Scott LeVeque discussed USA Football’s Player Progression Development Model, which will help coaches teach football at age-appropriate levels, and the redesign of usafootball.com.

“I really like everything USA Football is doing with its website and everything that will be provided,” Prochaska said. “The teaching tools and the website management tools will be a big help for us. We’ll now be able to do online registrations with payment right there. That’s a big step.”

The day ended with a two-hour tour of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, where youth coaches hope one of their players may someday be honored. For Prochaska, that’s not as important as the steps along the way for a youth athlete – but it’s OK to dream.

“It’ll never get old touring the Hall of Fame,” he said. “I love football. I have four boys, and I got involved when my first son got started. I’m going to be involved for a long time.”

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