Schoolchildren enjoying taste of the gridiron

More young schoolchildren are getting the chance to experience the fast-paced excitement of American football thanks to the efforts of the British American Football Association (BAFA) and other key bodies.

With the support of BAFA, the International Federation of American Football (IFAF) and the NFL, the Leeds Academy of American football programme are among a host of clubs involved in teaching the sport to youngsters up and down the country.

Working with Leeds Met University, the Academy have grown their presence considerably over the past 12 months. In the space of a year, the programme has gone from having no qualified coaches and no equipment to boasting 12 fully-qualified flag football coaches and enough new equipment to bring the game to potentially hundreds of new players in their region.

In April, Academy players and staff worked as volunteers at the BUCS University National Finals at John Charles Stadium in Leeds. In a bid to further promote grassroots football in the area, BAFA then donated one third of all gate receipts to the Academy.

The Academy have also received 35 helmets, shoulder pads and other soft padding equipment from BAFA through the IFAF-supported Kick-Start proramme, as well as additional merchandise and equipment from the NFL in a bid to further enhance their programme.

BAFA Director for Student Football (Schools, Colleges and Universities) Andy Fuller said:"We are starting to put in place a formal schools programme for the 2013-2014 academic year. But ahead of that, we have been working with partners, including IFAF, to identify schools that are interested in taking part.

"We recognise that it is vital to get schoolchildren playing our sport at a young age. American football - in particular flag football - is a great way to get involved in team sports and to stay fit and healthy."

The Leeds Academy programme offers a fun and unique non-contact version of American football. With qualified coaches introducing young pupils to the sport, the Academy also runs tournaments and friendly matches with other clubs and offers exit routes into other versions of the sport.

While the likes of the Exmouth Community College Raptors are evidence of a successful schools programme in the south of England and the University of Bristol Barracuda exemplify good practice in their recent outreach programme funded through Sportivate, there are also success stories to be told north of the border.

South Queensferry High School - which also received a donation of equipment from the NFL in order to enhance their programme - is one of five teams looking to get children active and involved in positive projects through the sport of American football.

The Ferry Bombers are growing alongside a team at Mussleburgh High School (Mussleburgh Mustangs), a new club in Coalsnaughton (Clackmananshire Ravens), a new squad in Edinburgh (Meggatland Panthers) and the Craigmount Bears, of Craigmount High School.

To date, the schools have run several five-on-five tournaments at the Cadet (13-14 years) and Junior (14-17 years) age groups.

Andy Fuller commented ‘The work undertaken by Tom Cramb and his colleagues is fabulous. They deserve tremendous credit for the successes of their programme, both in terms of the growth of the sport and crucially, the way it has supported the wider development of the young people involved.’

For more information on schools football or to be placed in contact with the programmes mentioned here please contact