Fifteen youth football leaders from North and South Carolina recently gathered in the Panthers' team meeting room at Bank of America Stadium for a USA Football Youth Football State Leadership Forum.
The Charlotte State Forum, the first of two to be held in the region this year, convened on Feb. 12. Commissioners, presidents and other youth league leaders discussed best practices, USA Football's services and opportunities and shared experiences in youth football.
"It's always good to see what other folks in my position do," said Steve Cooke, who works with the 2,500-player Greenville (S.C.) American Youth Football League. "I like the opportunity for everyone to come together and share ideas."
Cooke, who was the Charlotte State Forum's representative at the NFL/USA Football Youth Football Summit in Canton, Ohio, last year, said he likes the philosophy, programs and ideals that USA Football brings to the table and came back to get more ideas about what other leagues are doing in order to improve his own.
Cooke said his organization will mandate that coaches and officials in the leagues become certified through USA Football's online courses.
While Cooke returned to the forum in 2011, David Jackson was among the newcomers. Jackson, director of the Hoke County (N.C.) Parks and Recreation department and its league of about 350 players, said he attended because he didn't know a lot about USA Football but wanted to learn more.
"What really interested me was the training they offer for coaches," Jackson said. "The coaching schools seem like a great opportunity, and I hope to get some of my coaches up there.
"I can go to the training and come back and show them, but they'll listen and learn from someone other than me a lot better."
Both Jackson and Cooke said the educational opportunities offered by USA Football and the ability to come together and share ideas at the Panthers' facility is what will continue to draw them to the state forums and continue their working with USA Football.
"Getting more people involved with USA Football puts some clout into what we're doing locally," Cooke said. "The more coaches, officials and volunteers we get involved, the better."