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Powerful Partnership

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The National Guard’s Citizen Soldiers contribute to the success of the NFL High School Player Development program on many levels.

What does it mean to serve in the National Guard? It means that you’re part of the oldest established branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, dating back to 1636. It means that you can be called upon to provide relief to those that have suffered from natural disasters in your home state. It also means that you could serve overseas, if needed, as part of America’s fighting forces. It means that you’ll most likely take part in a variety of activities in service to your community.

In the case of the NFL High School Player Development program (HSPD), which is presented by the National Guard, being a Guardsman means helping young athletes develop their football skills and also learn life lessons that will help them succeed off the field through the HSPD’s character development program.

At the HSPD camps, which are currently being conducted around the country, National Guard representatives assist the coaches who organize the camps with player registration, distribution of player planners, and setting up football drills – basically anything necessary to help make the camps run smoothly. Many of the Guardsmen who participate in the camps have coaching experience and are very comfortable leading drills and football instruction sessions.

At many camps, it is the Guard that takes the lead with the character development instruction that is a major part of the HSPD program. Every camp features a session devoted to helping athletes achieve excellence in the classroom, in the community and at home. It is not uncommon for Guardsmen to conduct the sessions – speaking to athletes about the important decisions they face every day.

“The NFL HSPD character development curriculum involving academic success, anti-bullying, leadership, time management, sportsmanship, and citizenship is a direct reflection of the Guard’s principles of teamwork, leadership, commitment to something greater than oneself, doing the right thing, striving for excellence, and treating others with dignity,” said First Lieutenant Johnny Simmons of the Wisconsin Army National Guard. “These principles are the foundation that makes up the core of both the NFL and the National Guard.”

Sergeant First Class Jerry Waldrop of the Georgia Army National Guard agrees that the character development aspect of the HSPD program is an ideal fit for the Guard. “The character development aspect of the program is a great match,” he said. “We get to share our Guard Values and show them how to relate to being part of a team,” said Sergeant Waldrop. “We also hope that what we teach them sticks with them and that they live by the Guard Values as they make decisions throughout their day-to-day lives.”

From the perspective of the National Guard, now in their fourth year as presenting sponsor of the HSPD program, having direct, face-to-face contact with thousands of young athletes around the country is a great opportunity to educate them about the Guard and inform them about the many benefits of Guard service. In fact, the recruiters who attend the camps spend up to five days with athletes. They know that football players have many of the same qualities that it takes to be a successful citizen soldier in the Guard – discipline, teamwork, loyalty, dedication, and, of course, physical fitness.

“As a recruiting tool, this program works so good because of our direct interaction with the high school players and the coaching staffs. It gives them time to get to know who we are and what we do as National Guard recruiters,” according to Sergeant Wardrop. “It’s a win-win situation.”

For many of the athletes who participate in the HSPD program, having the chance to learn about the National Guard and the educational and career opportunities that service in the Guard can provide can be a life-changing experience. Many would not be able to attend college or be provided with job skills education were it not for the programs available through the Guard. So the HSPD program is indeed a win-win situation for the National Guard and for the participating athletes.

Lieutenant Simmons has personally seen how the National Guard’s partnership with the NFL HSPD program serves not only the interests of the Guard but all the participants at the camps. “The NFL HSPD program has given us the ability to educate high school students, parents, and coaches about the National Guard in an interactive environment,” he noted. “The one-on-one interaction of our recruiters with the players, coaches, and family members solidifies the National Guard as an organization that serves the community, state, and country. We are able to not only tell them what makes up the National Guard but, more importantly, show them who we are on a personal level.”

Not to be overlooked is the natural fit between two iconic American institutions in the National Guard and the NFL and how that linkage benefits each party. “The NFL is one of the most well known and respected brands in the world,” said Lieutenant Simmons. “Their professionalism, community outreach, and loyalty of fans to their local NFL team is a direct parallel to the National Guard. Partnering with the NFL gives the National Guard a great opportunity to discuss our mission, community service, training, and benefits to one of the largest sports audiences.”

From the NFL’s perspective, the National Guard involvement in the HSPD program goes far beyond that of a traditional sponsor. “The National Guard is the ideal partner for the NFL HSPD program,” according to HSPD Director Jerry Horowitz. “Their involvement in camp activities, especially character development, gives our program an extra dimension that no other camps have.”

The National Guard and the NFL’s High School Player Development program – a partnership that powers the nation’s best series of football skills and character development camps, provides young athletes with tools for success on and off the field and gives the Guard an important link to the next generation of citizen soldiers. It’s a model program that works for all those involved.

There’s still time for coaches to get involved in the 2012 HSPD camps! You will be giving back to the game and providing a great opportunity for young athletes to become better football players and better  individuals.

Visit and enter the promo code AFM612.


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