6-22-04, 6:25 p.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue appears in Greater Cincinnati Friday when the region and Bengals host the first National Conference on Youth and Amateur Football in an event attracting about 250 coaches, teachers, and officials of local and national youth organizations.
The agenda calls for them to hear from a cross section of prominent figures, ranging from Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis and former vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp, chairman of USA Football. Kemp, who quarterbacked the Buffalo Bills to back-to-back AFL titles in the mid 1960s, opens the two-day conference at the Cincinnati Marriott at RiverCenter in Covington, Ky., Friday afternoon with some remarks before Bengals president Mike Brown introduces Tagliabue.
"The commissioner wants to put the strength of the NFL behind this not because youth football is a feeder eventually for the NFL, but because of what youth football does for young boys," Brown said. "It's a great teacher. It teaches youngsters how to compete . It teaches them
how to drive themselves to get the best out of themselves. It's a wonderful instructional and educational tool. That's what motivates him far more than anything else."
The conference moves to Orlando, Fla., next year, but the Bengals drew the inaugural assignment
for a variety of reasons.
"With Ohio's strong tradition in high school and college sports, and the combined involvement of Marvin Lewis and the Bengals in youth activities, we felt that Cincinnati provided a great spot for this national dialogue about football at the youth level," said Cathleen Healy, director of communications and marketing for USA Football.
Brown's father symbolizes Ohio's rich football saga on all three levels as a high school coach in Massillon, Ohio State, and for the NFL teams in Cleveland and Cincinnati. The stadium named for Paul Brown hosts a reception Friday night for the conference in the East Club Lounge.
"This is a good sports area, it's a good football area," Mike Brown said. "Our people understand the value of the game. They enjoy watching it, but more than that they know what it means to young boys. It helps them, and you're talking about their kids when you're talking about that."
Also scheduled to speak are new University of Cincinnati head coach Mark Dantonio and American Football Coaches Association executive director Grant Teaff, as well as NFL Players Association assistant executive director Doug Allen.
In addition to hearing from speakers, breakout sessions give the participants an opportunity to expand their expertise in the areas of youth development, league development, and health and safety.
"Football has been an important part of the lives of many who have gone on to great success, including USA Football Chairman Jack Kemp," Tagliabue said. "The lessons learned on the football field provide many of the skills to be successful in life. Football coaches are teachers who have tremendous impact on young people."
Lewis speaks following Saturday's luncheon in a talk titled, "Halftime Coach's Remarks."
"Our job as a coach is to be a teacher," Lewis said. "It's not what we know, but what we can get the player to know."
Dave Lapham, the Bengals' long-time radio analyst who played 10 seasons on Cincinnati's offensive line, is the moderator for two panel discussions.
He leads off Friday's debates with the "State of Football in America," on a panel consisting of the NFLPA's Allen, Bob Casciola, president of the National Football Foundation,
Bob Gardner, COO of the National Federation of State High School Associations, Cedric Jones, senior director of Youth Football, and Jon Butler, executive director of Pop Warner Little Scholars.
"I'd like to take a look at the perception of pro football as opposed to the perception of high school and youth football," Lapham said. "In the pros, it's just supposed to be about playing for the money and I think it's about much more than that."
After Kemp opens the Saturday morning session, Lapham heads up the first panel of the day with "Coaching in America." One of the participants is his former Bengals teammate, Mike Martin, head coach at Cincinnati's Taft High School. Also in the discussion are UC's Dantonio, Joe Galat, president of American Youth Football, and Tom Warren, Omaha Chief of Police and a youth football coach.
"How do you establish character and discipline in a program in an age when the NFL is trying to cut down on celebrations and orchestrations?" Lapham asked. "I'd like to see what coaches have to say about that. I think it's a great opportunity to get some cross dialogue going on all issues about football with young people and I'd like to hear what the union (NFLPA) has to say about some things."
The groups represented at the conference: Police Athletic Leagues, Amateur Athletic Union, American Youth Football, Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Jewish Community Centers, National Recreation & Parks Association, Pop Warner, YMCA, American Football Coaches Association, National Federation of High Schools, National Football Foundation, and the National Association of Sports Officials.