Membership in the AFCA has grown to 11,000 coaches worldwide. While that growth has been good for the game of football and the coaching profession, it has made it more difficult for the AFCA office to stay in touch with its members. With that in mind, the American Football Coaches Association created Club 35 in 1997. Club 35 is a support group made up of AFCA 35-Year members who will be the “eyes and ears of the AFCA,” according to Executive Director Grant Teaff.
“Anytime you have a large organization, there is an tendency to become insensitive because there is the built-in excuse that, ‘We’re so big, we didn’t know about it,’” Teaff said. “Club 35 is a concerted effort by the AFCA to continue to grow in membership but retain the closeness and sensitivity we need to have as an Association.”
Club 35 members will represent the AFCA in their areas of the country, calling on coaches in times of need and alerting the AFCA office to any difficult situations that may arise for a coach.“Things happen all the time to our coaches both on and off the field,” Teaff said. “Deaths in the family, car accidents or players seriously injured on the field. These are things our staff needs to know about and have some way of contacting the coaches and letting them know there is a strong concern by the AFCA.
“It makes a big difference when they know their Association knows about their situation and is concerned about it.”
Club 35 members will also be involved in promoting the AFCA and promoting membership in the Association, primarily at the high school level, in their areas.
Membership in Club 35 also includes the opportunity to attend a special session at the AFCA Convention dedicated to the group.
The first Club 35 breakfast and meeting was held at the 1998 AFCA Convention in Dallas.
Response to the program has been so overwhelming that it has been expanded to include all AFCA 35-Year members who would like to participate. Originally, only retired 35-Year members were invited to participate.
Teaff sees this program as a benefit for the Club 35 members as well as the coaches they are helping.“From what I’ve seen and heard, it means a lot to the 35-Year members to be involved in this,” Teaff said. “They have been important to the game, they have a lot to offer and when they are a vital part of the Association, I see a renewed spark in all of them. They want to give back to the game and the Association.”