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 The NFL High School  Player Development  program presented by the National Guard  expands their Leadership Program into more  markets this year to  impact more of  tomorrow’s leaders.

What makes a good leader? Is it having confidence in one’s abilities and then building confidence in others? Is it the skills to connect with individuals in a caring, empathetic way? Is it mental and physical competence and the ability to solve problems?

Leadership, of course, is a combination of these and other factors – all of which are developed and reinforced in the NFL High School Player Development’s Leadership Program for young athletes.

The HSPD Leadership Program is a series of one-day gatherings of high school football players who have exhibited leadership qualities on the playing field, in the classroom, and in the community. Started last year as a pilot program in three cities, the Leadership Program is expanding to 12-15 markets in 2013.

While the backbone of the HSPD program is the nearly 200 multi-day camps that include football skills instruction and character development sessions, the Leadership Program is seen as an additional way for the NFL and the National Guard to have a positive impact among promising high school football players. “Players will have an experience that reaches far beyond football by attending the NFL HSPD Leadership Program,” said Gerhard Sanchez, HSPD Regional Director for New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. “The program reinforces, strengthens, and develops leadership skills in players who will positively impact their teams, schools, and communities.”

The curriculum at each Leadership Program session is divided into three parts – character and leadership development, community service, and leadership reaction. Each segment is conducted for all participants and designed to fit into the group’s 9 AM to 5 PM schedule.

For the character and leadership development portion of the day, HSPD has partnered with NFL Player Engagement, which is responsible for providing current and former NFL athletes with personal and professional development resources to assist them with their lives off-the-field and prepare them for a successful transition to life after football. Part of Player Engagement is the NFL Prep program, which works with high school and college student-athletes in areas that will help them succeed in life, so it is natural for them to be involved in the HSPD Leadership Program.

Player Engagement provides an NFL Ambassador, typically a former NFL Player, to conduct the character and leadership development session, which consists of a classroom presentation and leadership building activities. One such Ambassador is Tony Stewart, who has been an active mentor to both youths and his peers for more than a decade. Stewart, who had a nine-year career in the NFL as a tight end with the Bengals, Eagles, and Raiders, views the HSPD in general and the Leadership Program specifically as positive ways for the NFL to give back to the game by helping high school football players succeed in life. “I am impressed by the way HSPD serves student-athletes,” he said. “Their programs work to engage and improve at all levels. I look forward to a continued partnership as we work together to empower today’s student-athlete.”

Part two of the Leadership Program schedule is a community service activity. HSPD and National Guard representatives identify and partner with a local charitable or community organization and design meaningful activities for Leadership Program participants that last for several hours. Last year’s activities included packaging school supplies for underserved elementary school students, a park cleanup, and work at a food bank.

The final session of the day is a Leadership Reaction Course, which is conducted by National Guardsmen. While the course can take many forms, all involve a physical challenge combined with problem solving and team building. This session gives the Guard an opportunity to interact with the Leadership Program participants and impart values of physical and mental competence and teamwork.

The HSPD Leadership Program is specifically designed to develop leadership qualities of high school football players who have already demonstrated leadership potential in the classroom and on the field. There are standards for participation, which vary by state but always include a minimum GPA and other requirements that must be met. Specific information about all 2013 Leadership Program criteria, as well as state-by-state information about each session, when and where they will be conducted, and how to nominate players can be found at under the Leadership section in the next few months.

As is true with every element of HSPD, the Leadership Program gives back to high school football players and provides them with the tools to be more successful individuals. Like the HSPD camps and the 7-on-7 competition, look for the Leadership Program to grow from year to year and provide additional impact to more deserving students in more markets across the country. “In 2013, we are expanding the HSPD Leadership Program by nearly five times the number of sites,” according to Andrea Heflin, Manager of the HSPD Leadership Program. “The host states for these sites have been selected and we are making preparations for these programs to be even bigger and better this year. You won’t want to miss out on getting your players involved in this once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Whether it’s providing your team’s future leaders with a chance to shine in the Leadership Program, giving all of your players an opportunity to develop their character and football skills at the HSPD camps nationwide, or encouraging your skill-position players to compete in the nation’s premier 7-on-7 competition, you can and should take advantage of what the NFL High School Player Development Program presented by the National Guard offers young football players everywhere. 


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