Middleton flag football team takes flight for world championship in Ohio

Date published: 06 July 2024

A group of exceptional young athletes from St Anne’s Academy in Middleton will soon embark on a journey to America after clinching victory in the NFL Flag UK National Championships.

The students will represent the UK and the Minnesota Vikings at the International Flag Football Games in Canton, Ohio.

Flag football is a variant of gridiron football where, instead of tackling players to the ground, the defensive team must remove a flag or flag belt from the ball carrier to end a down. In flag football, contact is limited between players.

The Middleton team’s rise to the international stage began in April 2023 with just eight enthusiastic students and their coach, Rob Kershaw. Inspired by an NFL induction programme, they embarked on a seven-week training journey, culminating in an invitation to the North West Regional Tournament.

Their hard work paid off, triumphing at Platt Lane Sports Complex in Manchester and earning a coveted spot in the 2023 UK Championships at Tottenham Hotspur stadium.

Donning the Minnesota Vikings’ purple colours, their talent shone, securing a commendable third-place finish and narrowly missing out on the semi-finals.

This success sparked an exciting partnership with the Vikings. In November 2023, the school hosted a flag football clinic led by NFL coaches and Viking legend and ex-playmaker Jake Reed. 

Over 400 students participated, with the original flag football team guiding their peers under the mentorship of the professionals. The event was a resounding success, leaving a lasting impact on students and the local community.

Participation skyrocketed, leading to the creation of an all-girls team. Both teams dominated the early 2024 North West Regional Tournament, repeating their success of the previous year. 

St Anne’s Academy returned to the UK National Championships, this time held at Loughborough University. Their journey culminated in an undefeated run, clinching a thrilling 14-12 victory in the final against Wrenn High School from Wellingborough.

Head coach Rob Kershaw said: "To say I am proud is an understatement.”

"The interest in flag football within the school is massive, fuelled by our success and the incredible partnership with the Minnesota Vikings. 

“Coaching these determined students and witnessing their passion to succeed is amazing."

Headteacher Chris Heyes echoed this sentiment, adding: "The dedication and talent displayed by our students are truly inspiring. They represent the power of hard work, passion, and a supportive community. 

“We wholeheartedly wish them the very best of luck as they represent not just St Anne's Academy, but the entire UK and the Minnesota Vikings on the world stage."

The victory means their incredible journey continues as the school prepares for their American adventure. The tournament kicks off on 18 July. 

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