Opinion: USA Football's development model teaches how to be an athlete before a player

Dr. Brian Hainline is the Chief Medical Officer of the NCAA and serves as the chair of USA Football’s Football Development Model Council. USA Football is the sport’s national governing body and a member of the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee.

Reimagining something spurs inspired thought and action.

It requires creative, innovative thinking to make something new or evolve it for the better.

Reimagining the fitness and fun of our country’s favorite sport is the Football Development Model (FDM). Led by USA Football, a member of the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee, the FDM reimagines how football is played and experienced.

Some national governing bodies of sport have traveled this road in recent years. None cover a footprint of athletes and fans larger than football.

Approximately 20 leaders spanning youth to college coaches, athletic directors at universities, youth football league commissioners, and medical and long-term athlete development experts comprise the FDM Council, whose purpose is to guide the creation of this structured framework. The FDM is an athlete’s 21st century roadmap – at any age – to enjoy the fun and athleticism of football through sport activities that are developmentally appropriate physically, mentally and socially.

A key to smarter and better football, and virtually any sport, is to learn to become an athlete before you learn to become a player.

What does it mean to be an athlete? It means obtaining competency in areas such as agility, balance, coordination, speed, stamina and strength. When this is your foundation, you can play any sport and engage in any type of exercise for the rest of your life. And what an 8-year-old is ready to do is very different than what a 14-year-old is ready to do. And not all 11 year-old boys and girls are the same. The FDM will take this into consideration.

At its center, the FDM stands for having fun, developing a base of athleticism, and learning skills step-by-ste