Staff Photo: Manny Fils. Newton's Gematreian Brown works his way up the National Guard-sponsored 30-foot rock wall during Tuesday's NFL High School Player Development activities.
COVINGTON -- Even though it's summer, school was still in session for more than 150 football players taking part in the NFL's High School Player Development program Tuesday at Newton.
The participants spend time in a classroom learning about things more important than X's and O's. They learn about setting goals, time management, ethics and values, communication, teamwork, sportsmanship and making the right decisions.
"For us, the thing that I'm excited about is that, it's this way across the state a lot, we really don't take enough time to stop what we're doing as far as on the field coaching and develop our guys in a setting where its strictly dealing with character development," Newton head football coach Nick Collins said. "We talk about it, we preach it, we give examples of these things. But this program has really allowed us to stop the football and really concentrate three hours a day on those aspects. I think that's going to make us a better football team and hopefully will make those young men better individuals."
However, there's more to the program then the classroom. Players are broken down into offensive and defensive units where they go over several drills as they prepare for the 7-on-7 competition as well as go over other physical activities.
"We have a session outside with the rock climbing wall, and we have two sessions inside where different speakers are talking about time management, social skills, academics, college preparation and things of that nature," Collins said. "It's a mixture of player development and on-field training. The purpose is to provide the young men with character development outside of what they do on the field."
Although this is the first time it has been offered at Newton, the HSPD program has been around for several years. In parts of the state where it has been established, participation usually consists of upward of 300 players with as many as 30 teams playing in the 7-on-7 tournament.
"We're hoping at some point we'll build in this area something like that," Collins said. "This program has been going on for several years. It's been going on throughout the state. Attached to this program is the NFL 7-on-7 tournament, which we'll be participating in this weekend. This is the first time we've had it in this area, that I know of."
The camp concludes today with a 7-on-7 competition.