Girls flag football is now a high school sport in California

California approved a plan Friday to make flag football a girls’ high school sport amid the sport’s rising popularity and a push to get more female athletes on the field.

The move by the California Interscholastic Federation – the statewide body that governs high school athletics – makes flag football an official sport for girls in the nation’s most popular state for the upcoming 2023-24 year. The plan was approved unanimously by the federated council of the organization in Long Beach, said Rebecca Brutlag, a spokeswoman for the agency.

Paula Hart Rodas, president-elect of the CIF Southern Section council, said the goal is to get more girls involved in high school sports and tap into the widespread love of football among many who don’t like to play. and tackle. Southern California schools from Long Beach to Corona hope to start teams in the fall and the approval allows districts to add the sport to their budgets, Hart Rodas said.

“You can love the game of football and not want to fight but still want to participate,” Hart Rodas said. “Today’s banner is directly aimed at getting more girls involved in athletics by adding a different sport that we know girls across the country are interested in, but aren’t willing to play for a variety of reasons. .”

The move adds California to a growing list of states that have incorporated female flag football into high school athletic programs, such as Alabama and Nevada. New York State public high school athletic association made a similar move this week and looks forward to hosting the first state championship for girls flag football in the spring of 2024.

California’s vote comes amid a surge of interest in flag football among youth players in recreational leagues and growing support from the NFL and teams like the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers, which became ran a pilot high school league for women in Southern California.

Many schools have signed up to take part in the pilot and those chosen to do so – and the enthusiastic young players who play it – are widely seen as pioneers of the game.

Paul Schmidt said being part of a start-up was exciting for his 14-year-old daughter, who had never played flag football before trying out for the team at Redondo Union High School, one of the schools. who joined the league. Making the official of the sport should facilitate the securing of time in the field, he said, and give an impetus to a tight group of girls who come together to start something new.

“He loves it, loves it. It’s exciting to be in a new game,” he said.

Rising interest in flag football – where no one can be tackled and a game ends when an opposing player pulls a flag from a belt around the ball-carrier’s waist – comes amid concern about the risk of concussions and other injuries from tackle football.

In the decade leading up to 2018-19, the number of girls playing flag football in US high schools doubled to 11,000, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Without CIF approval, California high schools may organize flag football clubs. But coaches say allowing official interscholastic competition will likely push more schools to start teams and develop a pipeline of players.

Troy Vincent Sr., the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, wrote in Sacramento Bee those times have changed since he played professional football, which was once “widely seen as a man’s game.” He said high school players can play in college and beyond because universities are also growing the game.

Vincent also pushed to add flag football to the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

“It’s no longer a backyard sport for girls’ pickup games during family holiday gatherings,” he said.

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