Head football coaches with NFL, collegiate, high school and youth experience as well as a leading sport psychologist have been selected for USA Football’s Tackle Advisory Committee, the first committee of its kind to benefit America’s youth football community.
The group of experts, including former NFL head coach Jim Mora and current Northwestern University head coach Pat Fitzgerald, helps youth coaches teach tackling fundamentals and strengthen player safety on a national level through USA Football resources.
The five-member committee has assisted in developing a tackle progression model – a step-by-step process for youth coaches to teach tackling fundamentals in proper order. The tackle progression and its drills were created by USA Football, the sport’s national governing body in the United States. USA Football’s tackle progression model further strengthens player safety and identifies ways to build confidence in youth players by appropriately introducing them to contact.
USA Football Tackle Advisory Committee members:
PAT FITZGERALD is the head football coach at Northwestern University. He has guided the Wildcats to three consecutive postseason berths and four consecutive years of bowl eligibility, both school bests. Twice named an All-America linebacker at Northwestern, Fitzgerald was a leader on NU’s 1995 and 1996 Big Ten Championship teams, earning consecutive National Defensive Player of the Year awards. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2008.
MERRIL HOGE is a youth football coach since 2005 who was an NFL running back from 1987-94, mostly with the Pittsburgh Steelers. The head coach of the 2011 U.S. Under-15 National Team in football, Hoge is a member of USA Football’s board of directors and is an NFL analyst for ESPN.
CHRIS MERRITT is the head football coach at Miami Christopher Columbus High School. In his 11-year tenure, he has led the school to seven district titles and four undefeated regular seasons (2005, ’07, ’08 and ’10). Merritt has been either the head coach or an assistant on the past three U.S. Under-19 National Teams in football. He played collegiately at Indiana University from 1988-93 as a defensive back.
JIM MORA is a longtime NFL coach, including head coaching tenures with the Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks. In 2004 he became the fourth rookie head coach in NFL history to win 11 games and led the Falcons to the NFC Championship. Mora was a walk-on linebacker at the University of Washington (1981-83) and presently serves as a studio analyst for NFL Network.
DR. DAVID YUKELSON serves on USA Football’s Football & Wellness Committee. Yukelson is the Sport Psychologist for Penn State University and the 31 varsity sports within the school’s athletics program. With 23 years of experience in this field, his expertise is identifying ways for youth coaches to build confidence in players and appropriately introduce them to contact.
“We’re proud to unite these experts in football and sports psychology to help youth coaches best teach the fundamentals of tackling through our coaching courses and other resources,” USA Football Executive Director Scott Hallenbeck said. “Better coaches develop fundamentally sound players who perform better on the field and enjoy a safer and fun football experience.”
Material approved by the committee will be integrated within USA Football’s online certified tackle coaching course and other membership resources, including a virtual instructional film room and a drills library on usafootball.com.
Approximately 3 million American children age 6-14 play organized tackle football, making it one of America’s most popular youth sports. About 415,000 American adults volunteer their time to coach youth football.