A surprisingly inclusive sport!
Normally, when American Football is mentioned, thoughts turn to the NFL. However, the NFL is the professional and most extreme full-contact version of the sport – it is not necessarily ‘American Football’ per se.
American Football is a unique game of set pieces. To be successful, everyone in such a set piece (called a ‘play’) must perform perfectly what they have rehearsed on the practice field. To that end, it is a true ‘team-sport’ where the success or failure of a single player can determine the success or failure of a play or an entire game! This approach led to a methodology where individual playing positions became very specialised in terms of technique but also in player physique. This opens the door to the full range of body types that children (and adults) present including those with limited mobility. Indeed, at the quarterback position, a student with prosthetic limbs or cerebral palsy can play fully integrated into a team (with minor changes to the rules, to keep them safe i.e. having a no ‘Blitzing’ rule).
It also opens the door to students who may have been unsuccessful in more traditional ‘intuitive’ games that require an almost ‘philosophical understanding’ of them to be successful (for example, knowing where and when to ‘run-into-space’ in football). Those with learning difficulties can participate not only in a functional way but also at a level of skilled performance and understanding that they might not achieve in other sports.
It is probably a little-known fact that American Football is structurally gender-neutral. It does not have a tradition of being a ‘male sport that now allows females to play’. Boys and girls can walk onto a field of play as true sporting equals. In a school, what better way to encourage the positive self-esteem and confidence of females and greater respect of females from boys?