A unique tie-up between one of America’s leading sports teams and dozens of British schools is helping to bring one of the USA’s most iconic games across the Atlantic.
JagTag – a non-contact, simplified version of American football is proving the perfect introduction to the popular sport.
More than 100 schools have already taken advantage of the initiative from the Jacksonville Jaguars, the NFL team that have committed to playing in London for seven years now.
Secondary schools like Fulham Enterprise Studio where JagTag has been an integral part of their PE curriculum since 2015.
Unusually, the school has had a partnership with Fulham Football Club since it opened in 2012 whereby the club coaches help deliver its KS4 PE lessons.
“Just after Shahid Khan took the reins at Fulham FC, we were approached to be a pilot school for the Jacksonville Jaguars UK Jag Tag programme in 2015,” explained communications officer Frances Roberts.
“The programme outline advised Jag Tag would aid young people’s academic, fitness, social and personal development through a new and fun sporting activity and that’s how it has worked out.
“American Football is a great sport for young people to get involved in, not just for the obvious reasons of maintaining good health and fitness levels, but it is a sport that encompasses teamwork and community.
“It is an inclusive sport that accepts participants not matter what their backgrounds, culture, academic or physical ability.
“One of the main benefits is being able to provide our students with an enrichment activity that is one of a kind and not on offer in every UK school or college.
“The coaching staff at the Jaguars UK are fantastic role models and mentors to the students as well as providing support to key staff involved. They work with us to support our students.
“Through observations of our students throughout the years we have seen them grow as individuals and as a team, they mature, build their self-confidence and support each other.
“Through Jag Tag our students have been fortunate to be able to take part in the Jag Tag ‘Rewards Row’ incentive and attended several UK games over the last four years.
“We have also witnessed two of our sixth form graduates be the first ever UK Gridiron Grant recipients and witness first-hand the impact this has had on their lives and future prospects.”
Initially Jag Tag was only on offer at the Studio, but it has now become a favourite Fulham College Academy Trust enrichment offer to its students.
Frances added: “Jag Tag has been a favourite pastime for our students and supporting staff we would highly recommend it to other schools.
“There is no other programme out there that offers students a fun activity to take part in alongside being rewarded for their interest, commitment, development and empowerment throughout the programme.
“JagTag offered to aid our pupils’ development through Flag American Football. It’s been an interesting and exciting way for our students to learn new skills and more.”
Over the summer holidays, JagTag was delivered to more than 40,000 pupils across 60 camps in partnership with Fit For Sport, one of the UK`s leading experts in educating and engaging young people through physical activity.
Fit For Sport CEO and founder Dean Horridge has been excited at the prospect of introducing the non-contact, simplified version of American football to their activities.
He said: “On top of our traditional activities, we have been excited to show children the growing sport of American football, with the added bonus of ensuring that our next generation enjoy the health benefits of participating in the energetic team game that is JagTag.”
Jacksonville Jaguars senior vice president Hussain Naqi added: “JagTag is one of the most exciting initiatives we run in the UK and the kids love it.
“It’s proven so popular in the UK with both boys and girls which we’re delighted about. It’s is suitable for children of all abilities and it’s a fantastic way to learn about the basics of the American football.”
JagTag is already delivered in more 100 different schools and more than 13,000 children across Britain are involved in the grassroots initiative.
Youngsters are taught basic techniques of throwing, catching, evading and defending, before gradually upskilling as they get more experience by eventually learning how to create their own in game tactics.
It’s also not something restricted to secondary schools with primary children equally interested in the initiative.
At London’s Primary School, pupils were introduced to JagTag in a joint taster session with six other schools in Newham,
“The product looked good from the outset. It was high energy and really active,” explained teacher Ryan Robinson.
“We already had a number of very successful clubs within the school - football, basketball, and athletics for example - but this was a chance to offer something different.
“We liked the way the stats reflected that this was a mixed gender sport and the participation levels or barriers to playing were very low. We also liked the fact that it was entirely inclusive of KS2 (year 3 through to year 7).
“American Football is a great sport to get kids involved in. It’s the ultimate team sport. There is strategy and the kids need to think on their feet. It also teaches perseverance and will power.
“We believe it is important to have a range of activities for the kids so they stay motivated and interested, The key stage 2 students that have taken part have taken a lot away from JagTag, not just in terms of skills on the field (catching, throwing and evasion) but also the teamwork and social skills building aspects.”
Ryan is looking forward to growing the club throughout the new school year, with more festivals and inter-school games
He added: “We would definitely recommend JagTag to other schools. From the taster sessions to tournaments and everything in between, they have been professional and fun, The format is simple and is inclusive of all ages and genders.”
How American football is crossing the Atlantic