American Football is one of the fastest growing sports in the UK – especially at University level. Oxford University and Oxford Brookes once shared a team, but league regulations changed and the ‘Cavaliers’ split into the Oxford Brookes Panthers, and the Oxford University Lancers.
Despite starting with meagre numbers of players, coaches and kit, the Lancers are quickly growing into a stable, committed team. After missing out the league competition since 2010, they intend to make a roaring return this year.
With plenty of newcomers expected to give American Football a go, the current crop of players will be quick to explain that it isn’t just ‘rugby with pads’.
Aside from being brilliant bop costumes, the pads don’t really do what most people seem to think. Nobody tackles you by your shoulder so they don’t really stop anything hurting. They just give you a significantly broader shoulder with which to tackle the opposition.
American football is perhaps the ultimate team game – every minute the ball is live, each member of the side is involved. It’s pretty much impossible for one man to carry the team, enlarged-shoulders or not!
Plays are carefully thought out, generally involving the bigger players forcing open a hole in the defence for a fast guy to run the ball though. Alternatively, the team can protect their quarterback as he looks to throw the ball.
In some ways it’s similar to rugby – gaining distance and scoring touchdowns are basic features of play. It differs in the ability to throw the ball forwards and block players who don’t have the ball.
But if you’re put off by the crunching challenges there is a non-contact option called ‘flag football’ which runs in Oxford.
Despite having a fairly poor (or incredibly good, whichever way you look at it) games played to social events ratio, the Lancers are getting moving and are on the lookout for new recruits. Training takes place at Botley Parks at 12pm on Sundays and to get a taste of the sport you can either sign up as a team or join one on the day.
Nearly everybody who plays American Football at university had never done so beforehand, so ignorance is no excuse!
Photo and Article both by Gareth Johnson