THE activity du jour was American Football at Wharf Green yesterday as part of inSwindon’s answer to the Commonwealth Games.
After a golf session, roller derby taster, rugby demonstration and day-long basketball workshop, youngsters and adults were invited to learn the ins and outs of football Yankee style in the town centre.
Clad in shoulder pads and sheltered under protective helmets, children as young as six became honorary quarterbacks and linebackers, trying different plays under supervision from Swindon Storm American Football Club and mostly kicking the ball as hard as they could towards imaginary goalposts.
The ‘try-outs’ were the perfect way for children and grown-ups not only to discover a new sport and expand their horizons but to keep active while having fun.
“We are trying to break down the barriers for kids to get into sport,” said club founder Steve Bennett. “American Football is one of the fastest growing sports in the UK and it’s the fastest growing sport in universities.
“People have been really enjoying it here. The children love the shiny helmets and shoulder pads. It’s totally unlike anything they’ve done before. We have been teaching people the three or four basic skills and they are having a go at them.
“It’s a really strong team-bonding sport.”
The session was an eye-opener for 15-year-old Tom Dean, who was able to test his strength and speed on the small field set up below the Wharf Green screen.
“I have played American Football in my garden before but that’s it,” said the teenager from Calne. “I’ve always been interested but I didn’t know there were clubs. It’s been a really good taster.”
Thomas Viddler, chairman of the Multi-Sports Club based at Dorcan, also gave it a try from his wheelchair.
“It’s very good to let people and children have a go at different sports, whether they are in a wheelchair or not,” he said. “Anybody can do sports and disabilities shouldn’t stop people from getting involved. It keeps you active and healthy.”
The American Football workshop followed on from busy basketball, wheelchair basketball and rugby sessions over the weekend.
inSwindon chose to hold tasters as well as show live coverage from the Commonwealth Games on the big screen on the back of a similar sports bonanza to mark the Olympics.
“It’s a great opportunity to get the message out there about how important doing sports and having a healthy lifestyle is,” said organiser Kirsty Heber-Smith. “It’s also the perfect opportunity to get that community feel and for people to come and do something different.”