Rookie Tackle

Pilot program used to introduce tackle football to younger players

Rookie Tackle, a 2017 pilot program, serves as a bridge-game between flag football and 11-player tackle – part of USA Football’s adoption of the United States Olympic Committee’s American Development Model (ADM).

Flag Football Rookie Tackle 11-Player Tackle

Rookie Tackle was created with input from youth football league leaders throughout the United States, who have modified the rules of the game based on player development. USA Football is committed to continue to consult with commissioners, youth & high school coaches and parents to improve the experience for young players.


A small sided game to maximize player skill development and enjoyment at younger levels.


Like other sports, USA Football maintains the integrity of the game while introducing a player pathway.


Fosters Participation

Allows leagues with limited registered players to field more teams.

Players Rotate Positions

Participants rotate and learn multiple positions and skills on offensive and defense.

Smaller Fields

Scaled to create an appropriate playing space for the age and abilities of younger athletes.

Maximize Field Space

Allows leagues to utilize field space more efficiently.

Smaller Rosters

Provides a greater coach-to-player ratio to foster individual attention and skill development.

Increased Activity

Rule modifications result in more snaps on offense and defense for younger players.


The American Development Model, created by the United States Olympic Committee and first introduced by USA Hockey, serves as a framework for long-term athlete development. USA Football will use a similar blueprint to develop and pilot a new pathway for youth players and coaches. The ADM joins heads up football in USA Football’s ongoing commitment to advancing the sport for millions of young athletes across our nation.

Challenges in all Youth Sports

  • Emphasis on score versus player enjoyment
  • Focus on talent identification opposed to skill development
  • Current game structures are not age-appropriate to support development
  • Youth players are coached like mini-adults

Universal Principles of ADM

  • Universal access to create opportunity for all athletes
  • Developmentally appropriate activities that emphasize motor and foundational skills
  • Encourage multi-sport participation
  • Fun, engaging and progressively challenging atmosphere
  • Quality coaching at all age groups

Desired Outcomes of USA Football’s ADM

  • Establish a game pathway for youth football from Flag to Rookie Tackle to 11-player Tackle
  • Deliver a system for player and coach development
  • Create an environment that focuses on player fundamentals
  • Enhance player enjoyment with rule modifications that increase participation


Rookie Tackle Pilot Overview

Rookie Tackle FAQ


Interested to learn more about ADM and Rookie Tackle?  We’d love to hear from you.

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