Knights use 10k lottery funding to give youth a chance

School kids relish American Football coaching sessions

Date posted

14 March 2017


Edinburgh Napier Knights are launching two new youth sections in a bid to turn today’s school kids into tomorrow’s gridiron stars.

The university American Football team are looking to recruit players from local high schools following a successful funding application with the Big Lottery.

The move comes at a time when the sport is experiencing a popularity boom in the UK. Thousands have flocked to see the likes of the Los Angeles Rams and Washington Redskins at NFL games in London, and the adult game has seen a huge increase in participants and spectators.

However, with opportunities for youngsters still limited, the Knights have launched an initiative to nurture young talent in the south-west of the city.

They are hosting training sessions for children aged 14-16, who play a contact version of the sport, and 11-14 year olds, who will play ‘flag football’ in which players are ‘tackled’ by pulling out one of two flags worn from a belt around the waist.

No experience is needed and kit is being provided for the Sunday sessions, which take place from 10am until noon at the Sighthill sports pitches. 

Knights Head Coach Pete Laird said: “There is a real lack of opportunities for kids to participate in and learn the sport of American Football with the net result that they often have to wait until the age of 18 before getting their first experience of the game.

“The team have been working in conjunction with Edinburgh Leisure to provide taster sessions for children during school holidays for a number of years now, and the feedback that we get has always shown that the kids love the sessions but don’t have anywhere to go and play the game. So that’s why we decided to do something about that to promote the sport we love.”

He added: “We felt the time was right to try to give a little something back, and work with high school children in our local area to teach them not only the skills and techniques of the sport, but also the ethos and values of commitment and teamwork.

“With the successful Big Lottery Fund award of £9,969, we have purchased youth-sized kit and aim to build a team which can participate in national tournaments during the school spring and summer term.

“The project also has the added benefit of students at Edinburgh Napier University engaging and interacting with the local community. This will both develop the students’ employability and allow school children to consider the possibility of attending university.”

The Knights - part of the BUCS national league programme involving teams from more than 80 universities - have identified senior coaches to lead the programme and have also recruited experienced senior players to assist.

Coach Scott Smith, who has been leading training with small groups of school children since the Sunday sessions launched last month, said: “We have been having great fun going through the basics like tackling, blocking and running with the ball. Our focus is on participation, but with the ultimate aim of assembling a pool of players who can play competitively.”

The pictures show Kieran Sheppard (number 83), Kyle Brown (85), Robbie Lowe (33) and Alfie Macintosh (21), all 14 years old and attending Craigmount High School, in action at the youth training sessions.