The annual Selection Tour is an integral feature of the All-American Bowl. In the months leading up to Bowl Week, the Tour visits about 190 high schools where All-Americans have been selected; the football players and marching band members are honored at a special event, such as a pep rally or halftime ceremony, in the presence of their peers, instructors, families, and communities.
Not only does the Selection Tour function to recognize the individuals involved, but it also brings awareness to the organization and the U.S. Army. As Selection Tour Director Christine Norton explains, “Many of the qualities that our All-Americans possess are the core values of the U.S. Army: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage.” Every Tour stop is an opportunity to share these values and demonstrate why the Army continually supports the All-American Bowl. Local Army officials and recruiters are invited to participate in each event as well.
Honestly, the excitement of my Tour day in 2011 was so overwhelming that I hardly remember what happened. There was a special jacket, some speeches…oh, and my best friends sat in the front row wearing shirts with my name and buttons with my picture–a first, I was told, in Selection Tour history.
The Tour consists of five teams (West, Midwest, Southwest, Northeast, and Southeast) who travel within their designated areas to each of the high schools represented. USAAAMB prides itself in its ability to find All-Americans throughout the nation regardless of how big or small their home program is.
Once the team arrives, they are responsible for setting up and facilitating the event. Norton, who participated in the Tour last year, explains that no two days are alike. She says, “Our goal is common everywhere we go: make every event like it’s the very first event. Energy is key.” She specifically remembers the pep rally at Buford High School, where both a football player and a band member were honored together, because the school showed so much enthusiasm for their students.
Chelsea Bartlett, a 2009 alumna, will be traveling with the Tour this fall and is most looking forward to the ceremonies themselves. “I can’t wait to get to meet and work with people from other parts of the country,” she says. Although she is worried about becoming exhausted from all the traveling, she is too excited about the opportunity to be concerned.
When asked why she thinks the Selection Tour is important, Bartlett responded that “it brings an awareness to the bowl game that would be lost without it. It gets communities involved and excited about their athletes who have been chosen to play or perform among some of the nation’s best.”
Norton echoes these thoughts, emphasizing the importance of having a kick-off event. She also explains, “This is the opportunity to appreciate the moment, thank those that got the student to the high honor, and experience hometown pride.”
This year’s ten-week tour begins September 23.