How to get into American Football

American Football can be described as a chess match with shoulder pads, with the strategic element just as important as the physical skills of those playing.

It is a game for all shapes and sizes, with 20-stone blockers featuring in the same team as speedy pass catchers. For those who are not comfortable with the contact element, flag football features many of the same skills without the hard tackling.

With the National Football League's (NFL)   commitment to its International Series, which has seen at least one game played annually at Wembley Stadium since 2007, the sport's popularity has increased on this side of the pond.

Top American players have also shown an interest in British American football, including Baltimore Ravens legend Ray Lewis teaming up with the London Warriors in 2012.

American football is the biggest sport in the USA with the NFL going from strength to strength, but the sport is now planting roots in the UK. Ever since the sport was first shown on terrestrial television in the 1980s, a number of clubs have sprung up all around the country.

Get involved

As one of the fastest-growing sports in the UK, there are a number of American football teams at a variety of age groups across the country.

There are also a number of Great Britain-level teams for those who show an aptitude for the sport.

American football can be played at adult, university and junior levels, with the British American Football Association  set to introduce a schools and colleges league.

There are also a growing number of women's teams across the UK based at universities and colleges. Both the full contact and flag versions of the game are available to play, with a wide selection of teams across the country.

Clubs are always on the lookout for new members, with many able to provide full kit for practice and games. Many clubs hold trial days where new members and participate in practice activities to see if they like the sport.

The British American Football Association  lists all teams around Great Britain on their website in the club finder   section.

You can also get involved in coaching  or officiating  American Football in the UK.

If your college or University is interested in starting a football programme then you can register your interest with the BAFA. 

Why is it good for you?

American football is a sport where you can improve skills of all types, from physical technique and endurance to communication and analytical skills.

The fact that there are separate offensive and defensive teams mean that while endurance plays a part, often explosive physical skills and good technique, as well as being switched on mentally, are more important to a player's success.

Designed plays test memory skills, analytical skills when determining what the other team might do based on their formation, while also being able to communicate roles to team-mates is pivotal.

Balance, leverage and body control are big parts of the sport, where correct application of skills such as blocking and tackling will beat raw physical ability every time.

The amount of calories you can burn depends on your weight, position and the amount of time you are in the game, but can be up to 500 calories an hour for lighter players and 900 calories an hour for heavier players.


American football evolved slowly from a combination of football and rugby, with a number of universities changing the rules of each to create new types of sport.

In the 1880s, a man named Walter Camp introduced standardised rule changes into this new hybrid sport, which resulted in the first evolution of the sport we know today.

The National Football League was formed in 1920 and was the principal league until the 1960s, when the rival American Football League became a legitimate competitor.

In 1966, the two leagues agreed to play a season-ending fixture to decide the best team in both competitions. This was the start of the Super Bowl. The leagues fully merged in 1970, creating the two "conference" NFL that is still in existence today.

Are you inspired to try American Football? Or maybe you are an expert player already? Get in touch and tell us your experience of the game by tweeting us on @bbcgetinspired  or email us on

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