American Football: How to play the game in the back garden

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The Independent Online
So you've watched the Super Bowl and you fancy getting out to the local park and giving it your best Brett Favre impersonation. Problem is you don't have helmet, shoulder pads and 80-odd buddies who can make up two full teams.

The solution? Flag football - the game that enables you to fulfil your dreams of scoring touchdowns without risking your limbs or your bank balance. Forget the misconception that you need a truck load of equipment. All you need is a ball and a handful of mates.

The NFL, through its World League teams, the London Monarchs and Scottish Claymores, is vigorously promoting flag, or "touch", football as a way of getting more people, particularly youngsters, playing the sport.

Tony Allen, an assistant coach for the Monarchs, explains: "We want kids to learn the basics - throwing, catching and running. The great thing about flag football is that it is non-contact. Kids can play without the fear of being hurt, they don't need protective equipment and girls can play it too."

In organised games of flag football, tackling is made by pulling a flag from the belt of the ball carrier. Without any available flags, tackles are made by simply touching the player with the ball. Games can be played between teams with as few as three per side and the aim of the game, as in the NFL, is to gain 10 yards in four downs - with no running plays allowed.

"Many people are put off because they think football is complex." Allen said. "The beauty of flag football is that it is so simple to learn and play."

The Monarchs have been touring schools and staging flag football seminars. They have also established the Monarchs School of Football at Crystal Palace where training sessions have been taking place throughout the winter.

In Scotland, the World Bowl champions have established the Claymores Flag League. The Claymores wide receiver, Glaswegian Scott Couper, said: "Having come through the amateur football system in Scotland, I know how important flag football is to the development of the game. It is a chance to attract kids who might never have thought twice about playing the sport, who thought that it could only be played by huge guys who had been to American colleges.

"Teaching the fundamentals is the first step in capturing the interest of kids and this league could grow into a well-organised feeding ground for our amateur kitted teams."

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