With the NFL season underway, football fans around the city are once again daydreaming about making the same big plays—the ones that end up on ESPN SportsCenter’s top ten plays. But before your future wideout can catch it like Beckham or throw it like Brady (Tom, that is), they will need to learn the fundamentals.
That’s exactly what Robert Hickson, owner and head coach of Huddle Up NYC, wants to teach young football players. Founded during the summer of 2015, Hickson, a former owner of a coaching business in Florida and director of the after-school and flag football programs at a NYC multi-sport company, launched Huddle Up because he noticed that a good number of young football athletes lacked a solid foundation; they were more focused on flash than fundamentals. Hickson wants to change that mindset and teach them the essentials.
Huddle Up started out offering personal coaching sessions aimed at strengthening and building confidence, skills, and the physical ability of football athletes old enough to participate in youth sports up to the pros. Since then, the company has expanded its roster to include a slew of programs. Now, Huddle Up “offers flag football classes in partnership with organizations such as the 92nd Street Y and Yorkville Youth Athletic Association,” described Hickson. “We also offer after-school programs organized through local public and private schools as well as private group sessions organized by parents and their personal networks.” Each offering, as Hickson pointed out, follows a similar curriculum and format so families can expect the same high-level, quality instruction at each session. What’s more, the company offers clinics, camps, and throws birthday parties.
With an unwavering passion for football and unbridled creativity, Hickson designed a curriculum that maximizes time and space. (He currently utilizes outdoor space around NYC to coach his athletes throughout the year.) The program focuses “on the fundamental, mental, and the physical development of our athletes,” noting that a greater emphasis is placed on athletic improvement and technical development. Taught by knowledgeable and highly experienced, dedicated coaches who effortlessly infuse a dose of fun in every session, “children learn sport specific fundamentals and basic motor skills in a fun, structured environment,” said Hickson. Your children will learn positional skills (catching, throwing, route running, etc.) and participate in training exercises that will increase their speed and agility.
When your star athletes are not on the field with Hickson, there are plenty of drills and exercises they can do to improve their football skills to stay a step ahead of the competition. Since each athlete has different goals, Hickson goes over a couple of fundamental drills that can be done at home during the first couple of sessions; he revisits those drills later on to evaluate the athlete’s progress.
For athletes who want to play college football, Huddle Up helps them select which plays to include in their highlight reel to grab the college coaches’ attention. The company also guides the athletes in selecting a school that’s a great fit for them, focusing on both football and academic programs so they can be prepared for life after football.
Huddle Up is not just about teaching football. “We [use] football as a vehicle to teach responsibility, discipline, and work ethic,” said Hickson. For example, student athletes, as Hickson notes, will “see how practicing a drill over and over again brings about improvement, how doing pushups when they drop a ball make them stronger, and how racing against [their] last speed makes [them] go faster.” These lessons—discipline, the importance of practicing, and pushing one’s self—can be applied to other areas of their lives such as “school work and preparing for exams.” “Practicing vocabulary words with index cards over and over again and reviewing formulas and practice problems for math require focus, discipline, and the drive to get better”—the same qualities it takes to succeed on the field.
So what’s next? Hickson continues to be inspired by the athletes he trains, the overwhelming positive feedback from their parents, and the strength of his beautiful, micro preemie daughter who weighed less than two pounds at birth. Drawing upon that inspiration, Hickson plans over the next few years to take Huddle Up to the next level by continuing to partner with schools, becoming the go-to choice for football clinics, after-school groups, and private lessons, strategically grow his coaching staff, and eventually open up an indoor football complex.
As far as Hickson is concerned, “when you’re with Huddle Up NYC, you’re family.” He follows-up on his athletes’ games or attends when he can to witness their hard work firsthand, and like a proud coach, he beams with pride when he sees “the triumph on his athletes’ face when they make a great catch and their increased confidence.”
For more information on Huddle Up NYC, visit huddleupnyc.com.