News: Guard, NFL work together to help young athletes
Story by Sgt. Lauren Twigg
PHOENIX — For most young people, senior year of high school goes by in a blur. Even after graduation, many students remain scratching their heads wondering what their next step should be. This can be especially challenging for student athletes, who typically compete to be chosen as one of the “best” and be a part of a college team.
The National Guard Bureau and the National Football League have formed their own team in committing to young athletes’ futures, and lead them on a path to success during the National Guard High School Player Development Program held at Dysart High School, June 11-14.
“This camp brings different elements of college football and implements it into a high school football camp to help kids understand what is required of them when they get to that point,” said Staff Sgt. [first] Sartor, a National Guard recruiter and a volunteer coach for the program. “It also shows that the National Guard is not just here to recruit, but to help our community.”
More than 150 student athletes from Dysart and La Jolla High Schools attended the four-day camp, learning various position skills, as well as gaining insight on how to properly prepare for college.
“It allows students to work on technique, which can get lost during summer break,” said Andrew Garrett, varsity coach for Dysart High School, and site manager for this year’s event. “We get so focused on winning during the season we become complacent with making sure we have productive practices. This program in place during vacation months helps maintain our players’ game mindset and keeps them active.”
Unlike many sports camps held during the summer months, this NFL/National Guard-sponsored program is free of charge to all participants and all equipment is provided.
“This program is completely free, the NFL and National Guard provide equipment and uniforms, so everything is covered and the kids don’t have to worry about paying,” Garrett said. “Nowadays, kids have to pay for most programs in sports so it’s nice to not have to worry about that and the kids’ attention is completely devoted to what is being taught.”
In addition to receiving top notch football instruction and career counseling, students also get to learn about some basic military fundamentals.
“I have implemented the Physical Readiness Training into the warm-ups for them so they get a little taste of military life and see that the team player concept in football is closely related to military ideal,” Sartor said. “Every soldier does PRT and must have a team player mindset in order to get a task accomplished. The military presence out here is also good because the kids can see that we are not just recruiters – we are real people and we are here to help out our community and help get these kids on track to successful futures.”
The program enables the players to work on individual conditioning skills, nutrition, and also provides an opportunity to see what it takes to become a college football player by way of integrated college football training styles.
“I love the program because it focused on technique. They get to go through what is essentially college practice, and we get to partner with the National Guard who sent out some excellent soldiers to work with us and be good mentors for the kids,” Garrett said.
This program has served as a motivator and develops a competitive edge between schools, said Aaron Craig, a receiver for Dysart’s varsity squad.
“We are all training right now and getting ready for the season. We get to polish up what we’ve already learned, and it makes you a better player over all. The Guard here helps keep the discipline and keeps us going throughout the camp.”
The program is held every year within public schools and is provided upon request. For more information, visit: http://www.nflhspd.com/hs-player-development/program-overview/ and http://www.nationalguard.com/events/high-school-player-development