REDONDO BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Elsa Morin grabbed the football and started a perfect spiral. The 17-year-old then dodged the cone and pulled the flag hanging from another female player’s belt to make a crucial defensive her play.
“Something about football really gets me excited,” said the senior at Redondo Union High School in Southern California. “I always just wanted to play.”
Morin was one of about 30 girls who recently tried out for the school’s flag football team. As girls’ flag football skyrockets in popularity, Redondo’s on-field scenes are becoming more and more frequent in California and across the country.
The number of girls playing flag football in U.S. high schools doubled to 11,000 in the decade from 2018-19, according to the National Federation of High School Associations.
On Thursday, the Southern Section of the California Interscholastic Federation will vote on making it an official sport for girls’ high schools. We’ll take it up next month with the goal of making it an official sport in the country’s most populous state for the 24th grade.
Flag football is recognized as a high school girl’s sport in states such as Alabama and Nevada. It has also been added as a college sport by the National Intercollegiate Track and Field Association, with teams from colleges in Florida, Georgia, Kansas, and elsewhere.
California allows girls to play tackle football on high school teams, but few do. CIF president-elect Paula Hart-Rodas says flag football will allow the sport to be played “in a way that has all the knowledge, skills, abilities and strategies of traditional football, except for the more violent parts”. can experience Southern Section Council who previously coached Lawndale High School’s flag team.
No one is tackled in flag football. Play ends when the opposing player pulls away the flag on the ball carrier. Tackle him is also much cheaper than football, because he doesn’t need a helmet or pads.
The NFL sees flag football as a way to encourage female fans. The Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers launched a high school pilot league last year, giving many girls their first chance to play.
Chase Hartman, former Community Relationships Manager for the Chargers, said more than 70 schools have filled out an interest form for the new Pilot League. The NFL team chose his eight schools to start and provided uniforms and gear.
“Frankly, the response was more than we were prepared for,” he said.
Redondo Union team coach Jake Jimenez said he doesn’t know how many girls want to play because COVID-19 is still rampant. However, last year’s first tryout had about 30 people, and a similar number this year. Jimenez could only take half of them. He hopes that once California sanctions the sport, it can create a junior varsity team and develop a pipeline of players.
“They loved being pioneers of women in the sport and pioneers of girls in flag football,” he said. “We are true pioneers.”
He said he wanted to schedule the game just before the school’s tackle football game to promote the team.
The NFL, which invited a group of Pilot League flag bearers to a coin toss with tennis legend Billie Jean King at the last Super Bowl, has generated interest at the high school level. However, flag football has been growing in popularity among young players for years, especially amid growing concerns over the risk of concussions and other injuries from his football tackles.
Girls make up just a fraction of the 25,000 kids in kindergarten through 8th grade who play each year, said Mark Broersma, commissioner of the Friday Night Lights flag football organization in Southern California. The numbers keep growing.
“We’re seeing more and more all-girl teams joining and playing as a team,” says Broersma.
Tryouts at Redondo Union took place on a blistering afternoon. Many of the applicants hoped to play flag football in junior high school gym class and earn a spot on the second team in high school history.
Despite the competition, the girls cheered each other on as they were spun by defenders trying to dodge cones and pull flags. They celebrated the fastest sprinter – a footballer determined to try something new.
That novelty is what drove 17-year-old Aly Young into the sport. Young loved football, but he never joined the tackle team for fear of injury. Then he found a flag.
“It’s a fun environment and very competitive,” she said.
In recent years, parents and health experts have expressed concern about the risk of head injury from tackle football, especially for growing children, and that younger children are safer carrying flags. Some suggest that A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study last year found that a child playing tackle football had 15 times more impacts to the head than her football-playing child.
Morin is one of the few girls who can both tackle and flag. She said she fell in love with soccer after coming to the United States from France five years ago, but she was initially discouraged from playing with boys by her former coach who left school. rice field.
This year, she’s the running back for the school’s tackle football team and the leader of the girls’ flag team. ” I reassured him.
She also talked about how fun it was when their school won the Pilot League championship last season.
“We got a lot of opportunities because girls weren’t known to play soccer. ‘It was dope.'”
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