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Flag football is coming to Petaluma - FlagSpin

Flag football is coming to Petaluma

Details are still being worked out, but it is more likely than possible that girls flag football will be played as soon as next fall at Casa Grande and Petaluma high schools.

The drive for the sport is being led by Casa Grande head football coach and athletic director John Antonio, who has been working with the Petaluma City Schools district to introduce the sport locally. According to Antonio, girls flag football has already been recognized as a legit sport by the California Interscholastic Federation and the North Coast Section.

Still, “There are a lot of unanswered questions,” noted Petaluma High School Athletic Director Kevin Jackson. “But I am excited about the opportunity and potential. If one school offers it, we both will offer it.”

Antonio is a strong advocate for flag football and one of the motivators behind the coed Gridiron Flag Football program now being played by youngsters 6 through 12 years of age in Petaluma in the spring.

“A flag program for girls is something we’ve been working on for over a year,” he said. “It’s about time.”

Antonio pointed out that from the administrative viewpoint, the beauty of flag football is that it is relatively inexpensive. “You really don’t need any gear. It is a non-contact sport, so you don’t need a helmet or shoulder pads,” he said.

The game is played 7-against-7 and emphasizes passing, speed and deception.

The biggest sticking points, according to Antonio, are expenses for a coach, who must be hired by the school district, and for referees, which become a team expense. Officials in Petaluma High School sports are paid for by the individual teams as part of their fundraising efforts.

“Referees could be expensive,” Antonio acknowledged. “I can see the girls playing two times a week, and it could become costly for officials.”

Jackson said it is his understanding that the school district has agreed on a stipend for the coaches.

Timing-wise, Antonio said the sport could start as soon as this year, with spring practice and games beginning in the fall.

The Casa Grande athletic director envisions the team falling under the umbrella of the larger football program, although with its own head coach. At Petaluma, flag football would be a standalone sports program.

Practice space could be a problem, with the new program happening at the same time as boys football and overlapping with the start of boys and girls soccer. Spring practice for flag football, competing with a multitude of other sports, will be difficult.

However, “We will make some adjustments, find some room, “ Antonio said. “The girls deserve it.”

As for players, Antonio said that is no problem.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we aren’t booked full,” he said. Playing in the fall, the only programs that conflict for the girls would be volleyball, tennis, golf and cheer, with many volleyball players doubling up with basketball in the winter or softball in the spring.

Antonio pointed out that many girls are now growing up playing flag football. “A lot of girls play in our kids programs,” he said. “Many of them dominate the league.”

Among other details to be worked out is the makeup of the league. According to Antonio, every school in the Vine Valley Athletic League has expressed interest, but nothing is official.

“It is about equal opportunity for the girls,” he said. “Girls sports are very strong at Casa Grande and I love the fact that we could bring girls into our football program.”

Petaluma High football coach Rick Krist thinks a girls flag football league is a good idea.

“There is not a lot out there for girls in the fall,” he pointed out. “I never say no to getting more kids on the field.”

He added, “There isn’t a lot of cost involved. All you need is cleats, shorts and T-shirts and you are ready to go.”

That said, he does see a potential problem for spring practice. “If the teams want to practice in the spring, you are going to have chaos,” he said.

Antonio doesn’t foresee flag football becoming an alternative for the boys sport of tackle football, although it is replacing the tackle variety in some youth programs – and even the NFL played flag football in its All-Star game this year to help prevent injuries.

“I don’t think we will ever see tackle football go away,” Antonio said. “Tackle football is stronger than ever. Youth flag football leagues might get more kids involved in high school football.”

Krist agreed that a flag football program could lead to even more interest in tackle football. “Flag football is a great tool for teaching football,” the Petaluma coach said.

“We are not looking to replace traditional football, but to offer another sport for our students,” Jackson said.

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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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