IT IS one of the ultimate macho high-impact contact sports, with towering players decked out in massive shoulder pads and helmets.
But now a recruitment drive has been launched to build the first all-female American football team in Scotland and attract women to the game, which has millions of devoted followers in the US.
The inaugural training session of the Edinburgh Wolves Women’s Team took place recently in South Queensferry at the training ground used by the all-male Edinburgh Wolves team.
However, the team, which has around 25 women from a range of backgrounds including dentists, mechanics, social workers, students and sales staff, needs more players to compete against teams across Britain and internationally.
Lara Connell, 24 a veterinary nurse, kickstarted the idea when she sent an email asking “Can I join your team?” to Don Edmonston, head coach of the Edinburgh Wolves men’s team, shortly before she left her native Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia, last year to work in Scotland.
“I had a friend whose partner played for a men’s team and I ended up playing for the Newcastle Cobras’ Women’s Team. I’d never played a team sport before and I’m not good at catching a ball, so I played as a linebacker who tries to stop the ball being passed,” Connell said.
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“Then I bought a ticket to move over to Scotland and knew I’d miss the sport. I went on Facebook and found the Edinburgh Wolves and messaged them.
“When I got here I found it was a lot easier to get women to play.
“It is going really well and we started full-contact training last week with all our kit on, but we need more players and we want other teams set up in Scotland.”
Edmonston, 47, from Glenrothes, Fife, who retired last year after playing American Football for the Fife 49ers and is known as “The Chief”, said: “A lot of our girls have played rugby league or been in the Edinburgh Roller Derby and all very capable of handling themselves physically. The game is geared towards people who want a contact sport.
“But the key thing is there is a role in the team for you, no matter what your physical ability. The line men tend to be big people while the running backs run with the ball. The youngest player is 18 and the oldest is 31.
“We will take anyone who wants to get involved and age doesn’t matter. The women have bonded really fast and become a unit quicker than the men.”
The newly formed squad has been playing five-a-side games, learning how to achieve 100 per cent speed for six seconds before going in to a huddle, while its members build up their skills and learn how to protect themselves. But they will eventually aim to play 11-a-side games like the men’s teams.
“Safety is a key issue. The team got the full kit on last week and I have hammered home to them that just because they have a helmet on they are not superhuman. Also, because they get tackled from different angles they need to be spatially aware and know where to move,” Edmonston added.
Women’s American Football is growing in popularity in Britain with a GB team which recently beat Sweden. The British American Football Association (BAFA) runs three series develop the women’s game – the Diamond Series for 11-a-side games, the Sapphire Series in five-against-five format and the Opal Series for flag football.
There are also more than 80 clubs at universities, ten women’s contact teams and 16 flag teams for women across the UK.
Andy Fuller, director of the governing body of the BAFA, said American Football in Britain had undergone a massive revival since its first heyday in the early to mid-1980s when NFL games were shown on Channel 4. “It was seen as new, brash and edgy at a time when we had Madonna, Michael Jackson and all things American were popular,” he added.
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