The National Football League (NFL) UK’s Flag Football programme is expanding nationally across the UK and Ireland throughout 2017/18, following a successful run in London. With the support of presenting sponsor Subway for the next three years, the programme aims to introduce British children to the exciting team sport of American football.
Jason Brisbane, Head of Community for NFL UK, began playing American football with London Blitz and has fond memories of playing the sport.
“It was just a great team sport and the culture was fantastic,” he explained. “There’s such a focus on character in American football, because there’s so many opportunities to communicate and you can develop leadership skills and resilience. That’s why we want to spread American football to as many schools right across the country because we understand the impact it can have on young people in terms of developing their character.”
Schools have already begun to embrace the programme and the many benefits it offers. “The reception from schools has been great,” said Jason. “Many are surprised at how much the kids love it, because there’s a position for everyone. There’s no boy or girl positions, so there’s a broad range of skill sets – it’s a sport that is massively inclusive.”
Such inclusivity will be welcome to the many independent schools as they have increased their focus on mixed-gender school sports in recent years.
“Boys and girls can definitely play together,” explained Jason. “We recently had teams from our core programme playing at Twickenham and Wembley and in two of those teams the girls were leading the team.”
Even children who might doubt their sporting ability can have a vital role in the team. “If someone isn’t necessarily the most athletic you can learn to coach, you can support the team with game player formation – there’s so many different roles on an American football team for people to explore,” continued Jason.
NFL UK’s Flag Football programme aims to be a fully rounded programme and will mainly focus on primary and prep schools. The programme goes beyond simply teaching the skills required to play the sport as it looks at character development and nutrition.
“The character development is focused on the NFL values of respect, resilience, integrity and responsibility as a team,” said Jason. “Plus with the healthy eating section, we are educating young people to make healthier choices with their food and drink.”
The NFL has been a popular staple of American culture since 1920, and although the adult league is watched on UK soil, this is a great chance to help British children engage with the sport.
“This programme also allows us to grow the sport, as if more schools play then that supports the local American football teams. It will help these teams with their recruitment and, ultimately, we can create new NFL fans along the way,” concluded Jason.