Tuesday, July 10, 2012

SPORTS STORY >> Cabot is site of NFL-HSPD

Leader sports editor

Cabot High School hosted Arkansas’ first National Football League High School Player Development Camp last weekend, with about 80 players from several area schools participating. The Army National Guard teams with the NFL to host the camps around the country that focus not on only skill development, but character development as well. Members of the Arkansas Army National Guard were on hand to handle that part of the training during the Cabot camps. The program also emphasizes safety, concussion awareness and life skills.

Command Sgt. Major Larry Rankin, who has two sons on the Cabot Panther football team, was instrumental in bringing the NFL-HSPD to Arkansas.

“The NFL sees a need for high school players to develop football skills, but to develop character skills as well,” Rankin said. “The NFL has a good history of being involved in communities in ways other than football related. They know most of these kids are going to play their last high school game, hang up the pads and that’s going to be it. These camps help teach kids things they’ll need in life and not just football because football isn’t going to last much longer for most of them.”

Rankin also sees the camps as potentially having a positive impact on the Army National Guard.

“It’s important to me because our team, the National Guard, looks for the same type mentality, character and athleticism that many of these high-school athletes have,” Rankin said. “For those that may end up joining our team, it’s important to teach these character development skills early on.”

The camp began Friday evening with a three-hour session. Two more three-hour sessions were held Saturday morning and afternoon with position specific drills, non-contact scrimmaging and some 7-on-7 competition. With 13 coaches from five different schools on hand teaching football skills, campers got a good amount of specific training. The NFL demands at least a 10:1 ratio of players to coaches, and the Cabot camp exceeded that.

“These coaches are the experts on that end of things and we were very fortunate to have so many volunteer their time for this cause,” Rankin said. “Several Cabot coaches volunteered to be a part of this and coach (Clark) Bing organized it for us. He’s done a great job of planning this whole thing out and running things in an organized way. Coach Roberts (Cabot athletic director Steve Roberts) had the wisdom to see the need for camps like this and allowed us to use these great facilities here at Cabot.”

The National Guard also brought a rock climbing wall, which served a few different purposes, according to Rankin.

“Well it’s something a little different for one thing,” Rankin said. Another thing is we use it to teach teamwork. We have a team competition on it to help teach that aspect. Part of it also is character development, overcoming fears. For some people one of their fears is heights, and we encourage those kids to face that head on.”

The NFL’s early plans for the national guard presented camps were to have an NFL player involved, but they grew so fast that became impossible. There are currently over 200 NFL-HSPD camps that take place from April to August each year. Over 120 players signed up for the event, but Rankin was still pleased with the 80 or so that participated.

“For the first year I am pleased with the turnout,” Rankin said. “I think things have gone extremely well and I expect, I hope at least, that there will be more and more in Arkansas as this becomes more widely known.”