Get Inspired: How to get into American football

A rookie's guide to American football

How do I start?

Visit the British American Football Associationexternal-link (BAFA) website, or to find a club near you check out this interactive mapexternal-link featuring all the BAFA-affiliated clubs in the UK.

What is American football?

American football is a contact sport which is like a chess match with shoulder pads - the strategic element is just as important as the physical skills. The rules and regulations can sound complicated but are easily explained on the 'how to play the game'external-link section of the BAFA website. However, the basic rules are:

  • There are 11 players from each team on field and games are played in four 15 minute quarters.
  • The purpose is to move the ball towards, and ultimately into, the opposition's end zone to score a touchdown.
  • This is achieved by either running with the ball until tackled, or throwing the ball downfield to a teammate.

Is it for me?

  • American football is a game for all shapes and sizes, with heavy-built blockers featuring in the same team as speedy pass catchers. Teams are also known for welcoming new people, especially beginners, and for building friendships and socialising off the field.

What to expect when I start?

  • American football is not an expensive sport to get involved in and local clubs can help with equipment.
  • You can improve skills of all types, from physical technique and endurance to communication and analytical skills.
  • American football can be played at adult, external-linkuniversity and junior levels.external-link and is open to both men and women.
  • Flag footballexternal-link is the non-contact version of the game, where tackles are made by pulling off a flag worn at the players' waist.

NFL UK Academy

  • Students can applyexternal-link to join the first UK-based NFL Academy, which will open its doors to 16 to 18-year- olds in 2019. The academy, which will be based in North London, will offer students the opportunity to combine their education with intense training under full-time professional coaches.

To get you in the mood ...

Samira plays American football in a mixed-sex league

Are you inspired to try American football? Or maybe you are a keen enthusiast already? Get in touch and tell us your experience of the activity by tweeting us on @bbcgetinspired,external-link visiting us on Facebookexternal-link or email us on

All clubs need a chair, secretary and treasurer to help things run smoothly as well as officials, coaches and judges. Whatever role you're interested in, Join Inexternal-link has opportunities to volunteer in your area.