A Football Team
The NFL and NFHS bring out the big guns in support of high school football.
When you have a significant challenge on your hands, it is always a good idea to get the biggest guy in the room on your side. That’s one way to look at the partnership taking shape between the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) and the National Football League (NFL), which have pledged to work together to promote the growth and popularity of high school football.
With the recently committed financial support from the NFL, the NFHS is focused on developing and executing a strategic plan that will benefit both parties.
“With more than one million players, the NFHS does own the landscape of tackle football,” says NFHS executive director Dr. Karissa Niehoff. “We are an important population in the world of football. Historically, the NFHS has stayed back in the shadows and remained in our lane, so to speak.”
The NFHS realizes that strategy no longer works in a challenging youth sports environment.
The foundation for this new partnership was a face-to-face meeting last year in New York City between Niehoff and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. It was a 30-minute meeting that lasted 75 minutes.
“He asked what can they do to help,” recalls Niehoff, who exited the meeting with a rock-solid pledge from Goodell to assist the NFHS in its efforts to promote the sport of high school football and educate players and parents about the positives of the sport.
A major focus of the NFHS-NFL partnership involves surveying state high school association administrators, high school student-athletes, parents, coaches and officials with regard to their experiences in football and the benefits of participation. The NFHS will be working with UpMetrics on various survey instruments as a part of the arrangement.
“This is a fantastic opportunity for the NFHS and the NFL to work together to help ensure the long-term viability of high school football,” says Niehoff. “The sport is under scrutiny. We are appreciative of the NFL’s commitment to helping us provide educational resources and messaging about the benefits of high school football. This partnership provides much hope for the future of the sport in the years ahead.”
One of the areas of work which the NFL will support is research into injuries and the creation of programs geared at educating parents, players, coaches and administrators about the values and benefits of high school football. For instance, the number of concussions is being reduced with risk-minimization efforts. The NFL will help with messaging and advocacy strategies.
There have been concerns about declines in participation in recent years and through this partnership the NFHS and NFL hope to better understand participation trends, identify areas for potential educational emphasis and restore confidence that the sport is, in fact, more focused on risk minimization than ever before.
As a part of the strategic plan, the NFHS will engage a Senior Consultant for High School Football Promotion who will lead these efforts to expand the visibility and the reach of interscholastic football participation, develop key messaging around high school football best practices and player protection efforts, manage opportunities that impact the growth and reputation of high school football and collaborate with other organizations in the high school football community.
“This partnership champions the preservation and growth of high school football by reinforcing the life-changing values unique to the game,” says Roman Oben, NFL VP-strategy and development. “The NFHS and NFL will work together to promote player protection best practices and emphasize that high school football equips young people for success both in the classroom and in life by inspiring character, leadership, resilience, teamwork and other vital transferable life skills.”
This NFHS-NFL partnership is not limited to tackle football. “NFL teams will be working with state associations in their state to promote interest and participation in flag football, too,” adds Niehoff.