Over the last few years, the NFL Community team have activated NFL Flag in over three hundred schools and community organisations across the United Kingdom. To reflect upon the impact of the NFL Flag programme we recently spoke to Mr Behzadi of Little Ealing Primary school in Ealing, West London whom has been involved in multiple NFL Flag events over the past several years.
"We at Little Ealing Primary School have been involved in NFL Flag for 3 years, we were first introduced to the game via our School Games Partnership. We attended a training day to learn how to develop and deliver a scheme of work and were handed free resources and equipment so we could relay what we had learnt and give our pupils this unique experience."
When asked how he first introduced NFL Flag, Mr Behzadi replied "We delivered a term of training and entered our first ever competition. The competition was different to what our pupils were used to as it was so well organised, and the NFL team had pulled out all the stops. Our team did amazing and made it to the final, where we narrowly lost but overall we were pleased how we had performed on the day with lots of the NFL team members commentating on how well we had performed on the day."
"As our Year 6 pupils were all away on a school PGL our team consisted of all Year 5 pupils and desperately wanted to get back to school to prepare for next year's competition. That was it the kids were hooked and practiced during every possible moment they could, coming up with new plays for me to look over and conversation started about results in the NFL."
Talking on how he developed his relationship with the NFL he said "The following year I attended a refreshers course on delivering the schemes of work, it was here I was taken back and offered an opportunity of a lifetime. We had been selected to take our team to Wembley Stadium not only to watch an NFL game, but we were to play on the Wembley pitch in front of full house against another school to showcase the sport. The build up to the date was unbelievable the kids just seemed to be gleaming with excitement. Training just went into hyper mode with constant requests to train more and train harder."
Reflecting on the day their performance at Wembley and the impact it had on the pupils Mr Behzadi mentioned "The day finally came, and the NFL team pulled out the all the stops. The children got access to all areas, they met all the players and were given bags full of merchandise. They were the flag bearers for the Los Angeles Rams as the players ran out onto the Wembley pitch, but the best was still to come.
The half time interval arrived and the pride and excitement on this group of children's faces was a moment that will stay with me. Knowing their family members were in the crowd and the school staff and pupils watching back home on TV in front of a packed 88,000 + fans in the stadium they went on and played with diligence and professionalism and showcased the sport to the world. I know everyone at school and the school community were immensely proud of how they conducted themselves. This was an experience and opportunity handed to them that most children could only dream of.
The next few days the selected group of children strutted around the school like celebrities but more importantly what this had given us, was an inspired cohort of children desperate to follow in their footsteps. We were inundated with pupils wanting to get involved in NFL Flag Football. The foundations were built, and we decided to roll out the programme during curricular PE so that all children could experience it. To date Flag Football is an integral part of our PE curriculum; there is so much you can do with it, it has all the physical skills and more importantly the cognitive areas to develop and improve a child's physical literacy. It has throwing, catching, running, outwitting, invading space; there is literally a role for every child regardless of their ability."
"We are so thankful that we were selected to take up this opportunity and the legacy it has created at our school, is something we always talk about. The selected children who had the amazing experience may have left our school now, but the memories will stay with them for a lifetime. As for NFL Flag Football, it's very much still here and we will continue to partake and deliver the programme, as it's something that is building in the UK and we very much want to be at the forefront of it."
If you'd like your school or organisation to play NFL Flag Football, please register your interest here.