Last year, former NFL linebacker Rosevelt Colvin's 5-year-old son wanted to play football just like his dad. The problem was there aren't many leagues that offer tackle programs for such young kids.
Colvin understands young players often are barred from tackle programs for safety reasons, so he decided to establish flag leagues through NFL FLAG in Indiana and Massachusetts that would allow younger children to play the sport.
"Athletics are an important part of individual growth and development," Colvin said. "It helps kids learn to deal with challenges and work as a team. Sports just put them in a positive environment."
USA Football, he said, is a big part of creating that positive environment.
Colvin encourages all coaches in his leagues to take USA Football's Coaching Education courses, ensuring that his players and their parents have a positive football experience.
"When you talk about coaching, when you talk about dealing with youth in any way, shape or form, whether you're a teacher or a doctor or a coach, the most important thing is knowing what you're teaching works so you can give kids the proper direction," Colvin said. "USA Football has done a great job of directing youth football and showing the benefits of being both a player and a coach."
Colvin said starting football at the flag level helps young players develop proper skills and techniques, such as passing, tackling and ball carrying at a young age so they're better prepared going into tackle programs.
His leagues, Rosevelt Colvin All-Pro Flag and Cheer in his hometown of Indianapolis and Rosevelt Colvin's 59 Flag Football League in Foxborough, Mass., where he played professionally for the New England Patriots, offer flag football for kids ages 5 to 17.
"Sometimes if kids are smaller or aren't developing and maturing as quickly as their peers, they shy away from playing football," Colvin said. "Flag allows kids to come together and play no matter what their size or skill level is, and seeing them have fun and enjoy themselves is great."
Making that playing experience the best it can be is something Colvin said USA Football is doing.
"The opportunities USA Football provides for coaches are beneficial not just to my leagues but to leagues across the country," Colvin said. "They help coaches learn to interact with players and teach young players which makes for the best experience possible for the kids, which is what this is all about. USA Football shows how important that is. If every league and coach realized that it really is all about the players' experience and not winning, it'd make the experience for young players that much better."