On June 20 th , 2009, the Indiana Army National Guard hosted its inaugural 7 on 7 high school football tournament at Scheumann Stadium on the campus of Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. This first of its kind event was established to demonstrate a commitment to community outreach by fostering awareness about the Indiana Army National Guard. This event provided the perfect backdrop to educate the public about the Indiana Army National Guard, build inroads with potential candidates, coaches, and family members, and portray the professionalism of our force. Sixteen high school teams from central, east central, and northeast Indiana were represented on the day with over 350 players and coaches participating. NFL sanctioned 7 on 7 rules were applied and IHSAA officials were used to referee the games. The tournament consisted of pool play in the morning session and a single-elimination tournament in the afternoon session. Trophies were awarded to the winning team, the most valuable player, and the player best representing the Army Values. Media outlets at the event included The Indy Star, The Muncie Star Press and the Indiana Army National Guard Public Affairs office. Upon their arrival to Scheumann Stadium, each player and coach was given a Guard Exchange backpack full of Army National Guard items. As the bags were being handed out, each player and coach was greeted by an Indiana Army National Guard recruiter from their area. This designated recruiter was present with their respective team throughout the day and was able to interact with the players and coaches, answering any and all questions about the opportunities that the Army National Guard can offer for prospective recruits. MAJ Wesley Russell, Recruiting and Retention Commander Indiana Army National Guard, briefs Brigadier General Harrison the timeline of for the events of the day
Both the coaching staffs and the players were thoroughly impressed with the detail that was put into the tournament and the dedication that each recruiter showed to ensure that the teams were set up for success. In fact, numerous members of the coaching staffs and players commented that the tournament was the best that they had ever attended. “This was by far the most well organized, professional tournament we have ever been in,” said Warren Central High School head football coach John Hart. Coach Bo Belden of Westfield High School also added that he and his team had a fantastic experience at the inaugural event and would be happy to attend again next year. Players lineup outside of Scheumann Stadium at Ball State University for food served to them by their local recruiters. MAJ Russell and CPT Ryan Long (S3) provide the coaching staffs a detailed description on how the tournament is set-up.
In fact, word spread so quickly throughout the Indiana varsity high school coaching circle that teams who were not part of this years tournament were already inquiring how to be a part of next years tournament. One coach even posted on a local a local H.S. football web forum about his experience: “ The National Guard and BSU put on a phenomenal event. The kids were treated like kings. Considering this was the inaugural year for this 7on7 tournament, I'm sure they will make some improvements for next year although I'm not sure what else anyone could ask for. There was a large inflatable obstacle course of some type, corn hole set ups, several large flat screens with Xbox games set up, etc, etc. Plenty of stuff for players to do before games, and things for younger fans to do as well. Players, coaches, parents, and fans couldn't walk more than 10 feet in any direction without running into someone working the event (usually from NG) that could answer questions and help them with anything they might need. Trophies (and these were very nice looking, definitely not the generic trophy shop variety - imagine the Heisman trophy with the National Guard minuteman replacing the player) were handed out for winning team, MVP, and some type of mental attitude/values award. I'd be interested to see who brought that home. Hats off to all of those involved in putting this on.” Brigadier General Harris presents the tournament MVP trophy for outstanding play.
Overall, the leads generated throughout the event were numerous and at least one enlistment into the Indiana Army National Guard occurred due to the success of the tournament. Also, the National Guard Recruiting and Retention for the State of Indiana has received multiple invites into local high schools to give students presentations detailing the benefits of joining the National Guard, as well as extended invitations to local administrator/educator banquets. The direct effect and success from the “2009 Indiana Army National Guard 7 on 7 Tournament” can best be described as a complete success and earns a rating of 5 on a scale of 1 to 5. In fact, due to the success of the 2009 tournament, the one major improvement for the 2010 Indiana Army National Guard 7 on 7 Tournament would be to incorporate more recruiters and staff involvement. The popularity of the event has created a prime opportunity to expand the field for next year to 32 teams. This would provide a chance to involve high school football teams from all over the state of Indiana and network these respective teams with their local Indiana Army National Guard recruiting teams. A player catches a pass for a touchdown Local athletes show off their athleticism
The possibilities to expand upon this event based recruiting are endless. More media coverage will be anticipated for next year’s tournament and the crowd will undoubtedly double to over 3000 spectators. As this annual event gains more notoriety each year, the prospective recruiting pool will continue to grow. The Indiana Army National Guard has paved the way for countless future high school athletic events and has established themselves as one of the premier high school athletic event hosts within the state. Coaches had an opportunity to go over plays with their team on the sidelines Sportsmanship was a key part of the day