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CIF Southern Section may introduce girls flag football to high school sports

The California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) Southern Section Council met in Long Beach on Thursday, Sept. 29, to discuss the possible introduction of girls flag football to high school sports. The council approved the proposal, which made its way to the CIF statewide meeting with all ten sections on Friday, Oct. 7, for a first reading by the Federated Council.

If this proposal is approved in a final CIF council vote in February, girls flag football will become a CIF fall sport in the Southern Section, which includes 558 schools in southern California. This change could come into effect as soon as the 2023-2024 school year.

According to an online record of the Sept. 29 council meeting, “One of the CIF goals is to increase participation opportunities for girls in order to close the gap between the number of girls and boys participants. Currently, there are girls flag football programs at over 100 CIF member schools with over 1,300 girls participating in those programs.”

So far, girls flag football programs already exist at high schools in seven states: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada and New York.

In the spring of 2021, women’s flag football became a collegiate sport when it was introduced to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). Fifteen NAIA universities currently have teams and offer scholarships for the sport.

For Fountain Valley High School (FVHS), a CIF Southern Section school, a girls flag football team could extend the opportunities to students through sports.

“There’s a couple of pros…I guess I would just say it’s just more opportunity for our students to get involved. Adding more sports to the CIF list is always good,” said Hayato Yuuki, Assistant Principal of Activities. “We added girls beach volleyball last year, which seemed to be pretty popular…I don’t really see any cons.”

The National Football League (NFL) teams the Los Angeles Rams and the Los Angeles Chargers initially led the project that sparked this proposal. The San Francisco 49ers have begun a similar venture in northern California.

The Rams and Chargers aim “to legitimize the sport of Girls High School Flag Football by recognizing it as a CIF sanctioned sport at the city, regional and state levels, while also opening more doors for females to receive athletic college scholarship opportunities.”

In fact, the NFL has taken large steps into supporting the progress of the proposal. In February of 2021, the association collaborated with Nike to commit $100,000 to state athletic associations that offer girls flag football in high schools or that “demonstrate progress by way of a pilot program beginning in 2021.”

Yuuki agrees with the importance of providing new programs for students.

“I think the more we add to our plate, the more sports we offer, the more clubs we offer — it just gives us more of a variety…(to) give opportunities to every single student out there,” Yuuki said.

The NFL predicted that to start a team, a school would need to make a single initial payment of about $2,000 for equipment, which is less than some other sports. The NFL, NFL Clubs and NFL Flag organizations have offered financial support to schools starting girls flag football teams. Schools must complete a grant application to receive this donation, which is provided based on the school’s financial situation.

Games can be played on football or soccer fields, and only seven people would play at once, with no more than 30 allowed on a team. There would be two 20-minute halves, and players would use NFL Flag quick-release belts, which have three flags. The sport would follow CIF rules and the National Intramural and Recreational Sports Association rule book.

The number of young participants in flag football programs continues to grow; NFL Flag alone has over 500,000 players and 1,500 leagues nationwide. In a 2021 survey, 80 schools in the Southern Section and Los Angeles City Section declared interest in the addition of the sport. Eight Los Angeles high schools even held a pilot season in January and February of 2022.

Yuuki would like for FVHS to form its own team but expressed the program’s dependence on student interest.

“(The decision to form a team is) going to come from the student body. I don’t know the buzz on campus as far as if they even know that this is even coming,” Yuuki said. “I think it’ll be popular at all the schools… I would think when the buzz gets out there that student athletes would want to start playing [flag football].”

The proposal appeared for a first reading by the Southern Section Council at a meeting on Feb. 1, 2022, originally suggesting flag football as a spring sport. The council read it for a second time in April when the plan changed to making it a fall sport. The approval of the proposal would mean an addition to CIF Bylaw 1200, the list of approved CIF sports.

FVHS has continued to expand its sports programs along with the CIF-approved list, offering participation on teams from surf to badminton.

“When we think of sports, right, we think of, ‘Well, how about tennis? Oh, wait, we have a tennis team. Badminton — oh, wait, we have a badminton team. Girls flag football — oh, wait, girls flag football is coming,’” Yuuki said. “I think we do a pretty good job of hitting all of (the sports).”

In the meeting on Sept. 29, Southern Section representatives passed the proposal with a vote of 61-26, two members abstaining. Further news about the fate of this proposal awaits the CIF Federated Council meeting in February 2023, where it will be an action item.

“There’s not too much information out there yet regarding…just everything about girls flag football, but all we know is that it’s coming,” Yuuki said. “Personally,…I’m super excited to have that, and it just adds more variety for our kids.”

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Travis Burnett

Travis Burnett

A pioneer in the flag football community, Travis helped co-found the Flag Football World Championship Tour, FlagSpin and USA Flag. Featuring 15+ years of content creation for the sport of flag football, creating and managing the largest flag football tournaments on the planet, coaching experience at the youth and adult level as well as an active player with National and World Championship level experience.

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