The next big thing in football is emerging in the South now and may be headed to your state in the near future. Two football insiders have launched the most comprehensive national 7v7 program starting this June in several states.
Richard McGuinness, creator of the U.S. Army Bowl on NBC, which featured the nation’s top preps for more than 15 years, has teamed up with Dave Menard, owner of Airo, a Florida event company specializing in 7v7 events. The goal? Connect the prep and youth football world through 7v7 regional competitions and a championship.
The 7v7 concept, which promotes team competition based on the passing game, has been the hottest segment of prep football over the past few years. Amid the decline of football participation nationally among youth and prep, 7v7 participation has risen steadily in all parts of the country.
Menard’s inspiration for a national system came from a visit to Texas a few years ago, when he watched the heralded Texas 7v7 Tournament. He was stunned to see 500 teams participate in a regional and state championship over several weeks. He said, “I witnessed the biggest football event in the country featuring thousands of athletes playing all over Texas.” Menard noted that it was well-organized, with teams made up of athletes from the same schools. These were not all-star teams. Menard liked what he saw and believed it was a national model for 7v7.
McGuinness had spent 15 years building a company devoted to training and showcasing the nation’s top football preps. His U.S. Army Bowl and national network of football camps system took him to 30 cities and every major football market in the country. He kept hearing the same message from athletes and coaches who wanted more 7v7 opportunities throughout the year.
McGuinness, a lawyer, notes that 7v7 is less regulated than tackle football in most states, as state governing bodies require that schools who want to play 7v7 organize under a third party identity and follow a separate set of rules. Menard and McGuinness decided to approach the state coaching associations to help them play 7v7, stay compliant and enlist their support for a state championship and eventually, a national championship.
McGuinness talks about the perfect storm. Football had turned to a pass oriented game at all levels—NFL, college, prep and youth—and 7v7 has become the vehicle for athletes to enhance their skills in this new football world. Coaches and athletes wanted a year-round 7v7 opportunity and structure and a chance to play teams down the street, in their region, across the state and against the best in the country.
“7v7,” McGuinness noted, “was part of a trend that suggested there was no ‘off-season’ for the nation’s top football players. Instead two distinct seasons have developed.” The first season features the traditional “tackle season,” played in the fall with their high schools. The “second season” is organized around training and 7v7 competition played in leagues and tournaments.
McGuinness and Menard believe they have the right 7v7 platform—it’s exciting, affordable, and promotes team unity. And now in Florida, Georgia and Louisiana, athletes have a chance to play for a state championship and for a regional championship in Tallahassee in early July. McGuinness and Menard are organizing several more states to add to the national network next year. Eventually teams will be able to play for a true 7v7 national championship.
The duo have enlisted the support of corporate partners like adidas who will be providing athletes with up to $300 in apparel and cleats in some states like Florida. adidas will provide high tech jerseys (dark and white) to all athletes along with shorts and other apparel. The adidas product line, featuring the brand’s lighter-faster cleat, is a great fit for the thousands of skilled athletes who will participate,” McGuinness stated.
“With 20 athletes per team, the apparel value in Florida is approximately $6,000 per team in gear,” McGuinness states. They have also received interest in every state from regional television partners looking to televise the championship event.
Paul Gonella, a long-time college coach who worked in recruiting at North Carolina, Alabama and USF, stated “this is going to be huge and the next big thing in prep football.” A veteran of the 7v7 world as a college coach, Gonella started The Process, a recruiting company helping top athletes. Gonella states “athletes everywhere want to compete, and colleges want to see athletes in a competitive environment. Through Airo and the adidas events, athletes and colleges will get excited to see this 7v7 world expand.”
The average team cost is $599 (about $30 per athlete).
INFO AND REGISTRATION
Florida Championship – June 19-21 in Kissimmee
Georgia Championship – June 19-21 in Locust Grove
Louisiana – June 26-27 in Gonzales