Get Involved in American Football

You don't have to flee to America for a game of gridiron...

Last Updated: 10/09/12 2:24pm

The drama and spectacle of NFL returns to our television screens next weekend.

"The day that you do buy into it, it forever changes your life. That discipline teaches you integrity, character, responsibility. All of those things fall under that one umbrella."

Ray Lewis

Quotes of the week

But for those who want to really feel what it's like to smash the quarter-back, throw a Hail Mary or race into the end zone, there are more and more opportunities to get involved in American Football in the UK.

This week Get Involved investigates the rise in popularity of American Football on these shores with 51 adult teams playing across three divisions and 58 youth teams giving kids the chance to play some gridiron. Among the growing clubs is London Warriors, who were formed in 2005 and now have teams from under-8 through to the seniors.

"As long as you can run that is fine. I don't care if you are big, slow or whatever, we will teach you how to play the game," said London Warriors Performance Director Gerry Anderson.

And among their ranks is celebrity Vernan Kay, a massive fan of the game and regular for the London Warriors. He said: "I feel good, I feel fit, I feel healthy. The team spirit is mirrored in you work place. It gives you confidence to speak out in a group. It is a real energy boost as well and the guys are brilliant."

Young Warriors recruit Ethan Boyd-Caines added: "They encourage you to be successful, not just on the field, but off the field as well."

Former Bath and England rugby union player Duncan Bell is another convert to the game after transferring his mighty power to the Bristol Aztecs. "In this sport you go 100% for five or six seconds and you have 30 seconds off and do it all again," he said. "It sounds easy but after a few plays it is really tiring and you're heart rate goes through the roof. So it is the perfect environment for me - 40 or 50 guys turning up on a Wednesday night and smashing each other to bits."

Ray Lewis grew up in a rough neighbourhood in Miami and is no doubt how the sport changed his life ahead of his 17th year in the NFL with the Baltimore Ravens.

"The day that you do buy into it, it forever changes your life," he said. "That discipline teaches you integrity, character, responsibility. All of those things fall under that one umbrella."

The biggest boost in participation has come among students with a near 21 per cent growth in participation last year. American Football now has a presence in more than 80 universities and there are 73 official student teams scheduled to kick off the 2012-13 season this autumn.

Community American Football also saw a big rise in numbers last season and Sport England research showed more than 30,000 people take part in the sport at least once a month in the UK.

For more information visit the British American Football Association