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A Question of CHARACTER© More from this issue
The NFL High School Player Development Program presented by the National Guard helps thousands of high school athletes develop strong character.
From an athletic standpoint, the hundreds of camps of the NFL High School Player Development program presented by the National Guard help thousands of high school student-athletes refine their football skills using drills developed by a collegiate coaching staff. From a competitive standpoint, HSPD organizes the nation’s largest 7-on-7 tournament, with hundreds of teams competing in NFL cities followed by teams representing every NFL team meeting to determine a national champion.
But what truly sets the HSPD program apart from all other high school sports programs is its emphasis on character development. At every HSPD event, time is devoted to helping young athletes become better individuals and achieve more success in the classroom, in the community, and at home. Character development is at the heart of the HSPD program and is a great example of how the NFL and the National Guard are giving back to young athletes all over the country.
Every athlete at an HSPD camp participates in a character-building session, often conducted by a National Guardsman, where life lessons are taught on topics including time management and social media awareness. Similar sessions are included in the HSPD Leadership Program and at the National 7-on-7 Tournament. The content of the character development sessions is reinforced in the printed player planner that each athlete receives.
For the National Guard, character development is the integral part of the HSPD program and something that fits well with the Guard’s mission and core values. “Today’s student-athletes have much in the way of demands and distractions to manage in their day-to-day lives,” said Sergeant First Class Brent W. Sicely Sr., who is the senior marketing NCO responsible for working with the NFL on the HSPD program. “The decisions they make today can affect their futures. Good decision-making has a lot to do with integrity, responsibility, and judgment. We feel it is important to talk about character - and why it matters - to reinforce what student-athletes have been taught at home, in class, and on the field.”
A popular topic is social media’s role in athletes’ lives. “The social media presentation we conduct for the Leadership Course is one of the most popular briefings,” said SFC Sicely. “The briefing sheds light on how social media activities can affect every aspect of a student-athlete’s life. From applying to colleges to looking for a job, the presentation highlights how prospective employers and college coaches and admissions officers can be influenced by social media postings.”
By working with high school football players through the HSPD program, the Guard is able to reinforce their message of service and present opportunities that might appeal to football players – disciplined, team-oriented individuals in good physical shape. ”Whether a student-athlete’s plans include college or entering the workforce after high school, the Army National Guard has opportunities that can meet their needs,” according to SFC Sicely. “With generous education benefits that are earned through part-time service, the Guard offers student-athletes who may not get a college football scholarship a way to pay for college. For those choosing to enter the workforce after graduation, the Guard offers fully-paid career skills training and a part-time position accompanied by good pay and valuable benefits like health insurance. It’s worth noting, too, that the Guard’s education benefits can also be used for vocational and technical training.”
Members of the National Guard who participate in HSPD events also get personal satisfaction from working with high school athletes, noted SFC Sicely. “Most Army National Guard soldiers are active participants in the communities in which they live,” he said. “Many played football in high school themselves, so they have first-hand understanding of the importance of teamwork, leadership, perseverance, and communication. These soldiers have committed themselves to serving others and making a difference in people’s lives, so they are very pleased to be able to support HSPD and the athletes at the events.”
Football and the National Guard are a natural fit and the HSPD partnership has allowed the Guard to have lasting impact on the thousands of high school athletes who have participated in the events. “Football players and the National Guard both understand that teamwork is essential to the success of the organization,” said SFC Sicely. “We rely on our teammates to know and to do their jobs so that we can all succeed as a team.”
You won’t find another high school athletic program that delivers more benefits to more athletes than the NFL High School Player Development program presented by the National Guard. Thousands of participants are treated to the best in football instruction at the HSPD camps and thousands more enjoy the highest level of competition in the nation’s largest 7-on-7 competition.
But it’s in the character development aspects of the HSPD program – helping young athletes across the country become better individuals – that the program far outpaces any other youth sports endeavor.
Why does the NFL place such emphasis on character building? To find out, we asked Troy Vincent, who was recently named NFL Executive Vice President for Football Operations and is responsible for overseeing the HSPD program.
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
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