The National Football League today announced a major UK initiative – endorsed by some of the biggest names in sport – that aims to use American football to create life-changing educational and professional opportunities for young people.
The NFL Academy, which begins operations in September 2019, will offer student athletes aged 16-18 the opportunity to combine education with life skills and intensive training in the sport under full-time professional coaches.
Supported by Nike and based at Barnet and Southgate College, in North London, the NFL Academy will provide students with pathways into employment, further education and even the potential opportunity to play NCAA college football in the United States.
“The Academy is a first-of-its kind initiative that will deliver against three key elements: education, character development and football,” said NFL UK Managing Director Alistair Kirkwood. “The inspiration for the idea was our long-term partnership with Tottenham Hotspur. As well as playing games at the new stadium, we had a desire to create something meaningful for the community on a year-round basis.
“Also, we have seen from the success of players such as Efe Obada in our Player Pathway programme that with the right kind of ambition and approach there is potential to achieve breakthrough results.”
Barnet and Southgate College will provide the students’ education and has appointed a coaching staff who will work alongside NFL UK’s development team to create the football programme. Kirkwood added: “We are very excited to be working with Barnet and Southgate College, with its excellent academic record. The role of the NFL will be to drive recognition and prestige for the programme, provide technical expertise from a football standpoint and develop the character development curriculum – details of which will follow.”
Recruitment for the first class of approximately 80 students will take place over the next three months via a series of tryouts. Details can be found at nflacademy.com.
Kirkwood continued: “This is an opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of many young people, regardless of their experience of our sport. It is also an opportunity for us to create a pathway for players to get into the American college system and maybe even to the NFL itself.”