National Guard, NFL sponsor high school tournament

By Spc. Tarell J. Bilbo
Recruiting and Retention Command Public Affairs Representative

NEW ORLEANS – In partnership with the National Football League, the Louisiana National Guard sponsored the annual NFL High School Player Development 7-on-7 football tournament at the New Orleans Saints training facility, June 24.

Nine high schools participated in the double elimination tournament for the chance to represent the Saints in a national tournament in Cleveland, Ohio, July 9.

In 2009, the NFL and the National Guard teamed up to build stronger communities by giving individuals and families an opportunity to succeed through HSPD. The partnership aims to develop productive members of society, as well as good football players, with more than 100 sites across the nation.

“We have the Louisiana National Guard, the New Orleans Saints and local high schools, making this an all around community event,” said Capt. Mark W. Castillion, from the LANGs Recruiting and Retention Command. “The National Guard is very engrained in our community, and doing this is just another piece in serving it.”

In addition to the football fundamentals and games, the program emphasizes safety and concussion awareness, character development and life skills.

When teams were not actively participating in a game, Guardsmen and staff members from the Saints organization spoke to the players about topics such as time management and preparing for their future, and benefits the National Guard offers students in college.

“I think its great for the kids to be able to see the Guard getting involved,” said David J. Guilliot, football defensive coordinator for Hahnville High School. “The appreciation for what you guys do goes understated a lot, especially by teenage kids. Theyre not really thinking about that.”

“Its important for these young athletes to see all of the opportunities that are available to them,” said Castillion, a New Orleans native. “Thats the message we want them to see, the Guard is here, were always around, and were here to improve the livelihood of our community.”

After a full-day of fun challenges, football and life fundamentals, Hahnville came out on top for the second year in a row.

“This tournament is great for high school football,” said Guilliot, a native of Marrero. “It keeps the kids intensity level up during the part of the summer where there really isnt a lot going on.”

The NFL HSPD program addresses challenges facing high school football programs across the country, with focus primarily on underserved communities. HSPD serves as a free resource for both high school coaches and players.

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