AMERICAN football in Swindon is set to go from strength to strength thanks to vital grant money which will be used to help attract new players to the sport.
Swindon Storm have been handed £10,000 by Sport England to help develop the club, as well as £4,500 from Wiltshire Council Sports Partnership (WASP) to begin a Flag Football programme, helping to attract young players to the sport through a non-contact version of the game.
The Sport England money is set to be used to purchase 30 starter American football sets, including pads, helmets and clothing, and expand the club’s collection of tackle bags, which is vital to allow players to take up the sport.
Head coach Steve Bennett, who was instrumental in founding the club, is excited by the opportunity the money has presented and is keen to improve the club’s senior side and also build a thriving youth set-up.
“It’s all pretty simple really, to increase participation and to let more people enjoy the sport we need to have more kit,” he said.
“This can help get a junior club going and thriving and improve the senior club because the starter set will give us everything a player needs to get on the field.
“We gave Sport England a lot of evidence to show how we’ve managed to build the club over just a few years and they seemed pretty excited by what we’ve been doing.
“This has really energised us to push the club on even further and we really want to get a junior team running sustainably, which we haven’t quite been able to do despite running a few courses and things for junior players.
“If we can get that going then it really will help the sport grow in Swindon.”
The development of the Flag Football programme is underway and was evident on Saturday when Storm ran a course to help train new coaches at Isambard School, where prospective coaches were able to learn the game in the classroom before taking moving out to the field.
Tom North of Active Trowbridge and Kelly Morgan of Sports Xtra Swindon both tried the sport for the first time, and were impressed with what they discovered.
“The day was great fun and I enjoyed learning a new sport,” North said. “I played rugby for many years and there are lots of similarities.
“I am now looking forward to taking what I've learned and introducing the sport to schoolchildren in the Trowbridge and surrounding area.”
Morgan added: “My business is to engage and develop the physical abilities of Swindon's primary school children, so I am thrilled to be able to offer Flag Football, with it's wide spectrum of skills and physical challenges, to Swindon's schools.”