Cast your mind back to your early playing days, did you start out at a community club in your teens or came to the sport as you fancied trying your hand at something new at university?
Unsurprisingly, not many of us in the game started playing at school. We don’t mean at school age, we mean actually at your school and being able to compete for your school. But that’s changing thanks to the schools funding scheme from American Football Development Ltd (AFD).
While not unique, and others have done this in their own areas, AFD are looking to build up both padded programmes, and competitions, across the UK, while hoping to reduce the distance some youth teams have to travel.
“It all started with a taster session with Sir Frederic Osborn school in December 2016,”
said Gur Samuel, Vice Chairman of AFD.
“One of the PE Teachers was keen to start American Football in the school but like so many cash-strapped secondaries didn’t have the funds to get the sport off the ground.”
That all changed in early 2017 when AFD worked with the school to create a Sport England Small Grant and apply for funding to provide coaching, teacher CPD and equipment to make the dream a reality.
In September this 2017 the sessions started in both flag and padded football with students receiving two extra-curricular coaching periods a week. They have received their equipment, both field and personal equipment, and students have been out practising skills outside of training sessions.
The impact of the sport has been huge for the school already. It has engaged children who may not be participating in other school sports and also, with some of the children, see an improvement in attendance as they don’t want to miss out on their American Football.
“Sir Fred’s is a great example of how our sport can enable people and get them participating in physical activity when they may not have been participating previously. The students are motivated and working hard to get ready for competition!”
That competition might not be too far away as two other schools – Folkestone Academy in Kent and All Hallows in Surrey will also be starting their programs in the New Year. Both schools have seen their students engage in flag football particularly through the satellite club programme and their own padded programme was the next natural step for the children.
“As those of us who are involved in community clubs know, there are children hungry to play American Football, but funds can be prohibitive in getting involved,”
“The great thing about the support scheme is we’re able to offer the sport within their own local environment, teaching them skills and creating pathways to the local clubs, while offering competition between school groups.”
The school support scheme could be an ideal way for clubs to start looking at their own Youth and Junior programmes without making a huge impact on their own club resources. AFD write the funding bids for the schools, provide all the equipment and coaches and help forge links with the local sides.
The Sport England grants are not just supporting padded programmes but flag ones too. Greenacre Sports Partnership in Medway recently won a grant which will see coaching being provided for all of the ten secondary schools in the area. They will also have competitions and equipment and training for teachers to maintain the sport in the school while also looking to see some students also play for Kent Exiles.
For Vikki Bell, Sports Partnership Manager for Greenacre, the step to having the grant for combined activity was the natural one for the students in the area.
“The interest in American Football continues to grow in Kent and we’ve seen an interest in flag football through Medway Council’s community activity Park Sport.
We wanted to take this interest and build it through our secondary schools to ensure that we have a new sport to engage more pupils in the future. The free support from AFD will allow all our secondary schools the chance to have coaching, equipment and CPD and we can’t wait to start seeing the inter-school competitions!”
AFD already have plans to develop this and grow the schools programme in 2018 as well as bring more clubs into the mix.