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January 2014

January 2014

Going Camping

© January 2014

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Sending your players to the free football camps offered by the NFL High School Player Development program presented by the National Guard is a win-win for you and them.

Football camps for high school athletes are big business. Dozens of for-profit camps, costing hundreds or even thousands of dollars to attend, are offered to high school students who want to hone their skills over a period of days or weeks.

But only one football camp program offers proven instruction methods and drills provided by top FBS universities. Only one camp program provides athletes with valuable life lessons learned in an inspirational character development session. And only one camp program is free for all attendees, giving athletes who could never afford a traditional camp the chance to become better football players and better individuals.

That camp program is the NFL High School Player Development program presented by the National Guard.

Now entering its 11th year, the HSPD camp program demonstrates the commitment of the NFL and the National Guard to help young athletes everywhere, especially those in underserved communities. Dozens of free camps are conducted each year, from May to August, benefitting thousands of high school football players from coast to coast.

For high school coaches, the HSPD camps represent a great opportunity to expose players to top-quality football instruction and meaningful character-building activities. All players can benefit from attending an HSPD camp, and coaches benefit from having better prepared, more skilled players ready for the start of fall practice.

HSPD Regional Director John Austinson, who is also head coach at Byron High School in Minnesota, has experienced the benefits of the camps first-hand. “As a coach, you can’t ask for better,” he said. “It is a great opportunity for players and programs to get better.” 

It’s easy for coaches to inform their athletes about upcoming camps in their area. More information about the camps can be found on the program’s comprehensive web site, When you have students who are interested in attending a camp, or if you have an interest in getting involved with the HSPD program, you can go to the “Contact Us” page and pass your information on directly to the NFL.

The five-session HSPD camps are, naturally, focused on improving football skills. To design the teaching curriculum, each year the NFL works with a notable FBS university’s coaching staff. They provide a package of position-specific and team drills that are based on the actual drills used at the collegiate level. The drills are demonstrated in print and on a DVD that coaches at the camps use as guidelines. In prior years, Alabama, Miami (FL), and Vanderbilt have participated in the program and this year the University of Washington has provided the instruction materials.

The football instruction sessions at HSPD camps deliver proven results. “In Minnesota, of the teams that have had a few players or the majority of their team attend an HSPD camp over the past couple years, over eight made it to our state playoffs, one team was state runner-up and another was state champion,” according to Austinson.

On the west coast, HSPD Regional Director Eloy Ledesma saw a similar success story at one of his region’s camps. “We had quite a few players from Pomona High School attend our Pomona camp,” he said. “At the camp, these players ran through the same drills that the University of Miami football team does, and it was a more demanding regimen than they had been used to. There is no question that the NFL HSPD experience this past summer yielded great results in the development of this team and laid the foundation for their successful season where they made it to the CIF section semifinals.”

Entire teams can benefit, but so can individual athletes. “Jack Nelson, who played for me at Byron, is now the starting quarterback for Winona State University,” said Austinson. “Jack attended three HSPD camps and grew as an athlete and leader each year. He took the skills he learned at the HSPD camps and brought them to Winona State, where he was one of the leading QBs in all of Division II as a freshman. He’s a true success story in football and leadership!”

Development of leadership and character is the other aspect of the HSPD camps that sets them apart from all others. At every camp, athletes take part in a character development session designed by the NFL Player Engagement department and led by coaches and representatives from the National Guard. Campers learn how to be more successful in the classroom, in the community, and at home.

“There is no question that the character development component is what makes the NFL HSPD camps unlike any other,” according to Ledesma. “The importance of discussing and educating young men on topics such as concussion awareness and social media responsibility is paramount during this critical time in their personal development.” Austinson agrees. “Let’s face it, life can be a rough road and the challenges young people face today are changing as fast as technology and social media change,” he said. “The character development portion gives today’s athlete a vehicle to help them navigate through the rough roads they will be traveling.”

Last year, Ledesma saw the benefits of the character development program first-hand. “At our San Diego HSPD camp we had a group of kids from Castle Park High School in Chula Vista,” he recalled. “A lot of these kids come from difficult socio-economic backgrounds and face many challenges in their personal lives. After attending the camp, the team came together and held each other accountable to a high standard of excellence off the field and in the classroom. They learned that competition is not something that ends when one walks off the field - they competed among themselves to be the best students, citizens, sons, brothers, and friends they could be. The camp instilled a sense of family to this team that translated way beyond the football field and became firmly entrenched in their daily lives.”    

Such success stories, whether they’re improved football skills or improved personal character, are common at the HSPD camps. It’s a remarkable program that, thanks to the NFL and the National Guard, is available to high school student athletes across the country at no charge.

Isn’t it time that you, as a high school football coach, get your players involved in a 2014 HSPD camp in your area? They’ll be better football players and better individuals as a result, and you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you opened meaningful new doors for them. Go to today and contact the NFL to express your interest in helping your players grow as athletes and as young men. 

GET INVOLVED Getting involved in the NFL HSPD program lets you give back to the game, gives your players a chance to compete in the
National 7-on-7 Tournament, and provides young athletes with a great opportunity to become better football players and better individuals. 
Visit and enter the promo code AFM014.


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