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Girls flag football is the fastest-growing sport in Georgia schools

TRANSCRIPT:

Leah Fleming: Girls flag football is the fastest-growing high school sport in Georgia right now, according to the Georgia High School Association. Over half of their schools now have a team, with more on the way.

McEachern High School in Powder Springs is currently the top-ranked team in the state. That’s according to MaxPreps, which is a high school sports website. And McEachern’s senior quarterback, Amber Kirkpatrick, was recently named the Georgia High School Football Daily Player of the Week and the the Cobb County Schools female athlete of the week. Amber led McEachern to a 16-0 regular season and finished the season with over 2,800 passing yards, 49 touchdowns and 254 rushing yards, among other accomplishments.

 

Amber Kirkpatrick: I wasn’t very interested in the sport at first. However, my family is a very athletic family and I figured I would give it a shot. And once I gave it a shot, I loved it. I’m so happy I decided to play. It gave me something new to do and learn about myself.

Leah Fleming: So what are your goals as an athlete?

Amber Kirkpatrick: No matter the sport I’m playing, whether it’s flag football or lacrosse, I always become a student of the game and always take in what my coaches have to tell me and just prepare myself for everything that I need to.

Leah Fleming: Does your school have as much school spirit for girls’ games as they do for the boys? Do they come out and watch you all play?

Amber Kirkpatrick: I would say after they saw how successful our season was, they started to come out and see us. But there’s definitely a lot more love for boys’ sports than for ours.

Leah Fleming: So, Coach Jake Bergdorf, you graduated from college where you yourself played football. How did you get into coaching girls flag football?

Jake Bergdorf: I graduated from Valdosta State and played football for a couple of years. My dad was a head football coach for many, many years. He was a high school coach for 30 years. As a kid, I was always on the sidelines. I was a water boy. I grew up around the game of football. I’ve  always had love for the sport. I went on to coach high school football for seven years, tackle football, six years at McEachern. And I honestly had never coached girls before. And I was like, ‘You know what? I got a daughter and this is a perfect opportunity for me to learn.’ I really, really have enjoyed it. We treat the game of flag football exactly like we did with tackle football. We watch film. The girls are all into it, you know, and that — that’s what’s made our program so successful, is how serious our players take it.

Leah Fleming:  Girls, when they are playing, they are not actually tackling but there is still some physicality to it is that right? 

Jake Bergdorf: That is correct. It’s a lot more physical than what you would think. We wear flag belts in high school, triple threat flag, that just means there are three flags. And that is how you tackle someone by pulling their flag belt. But in college the sport is growing on the collegiate level as well and they wear pop flags which means that there are two flags, one on each hip. What I also love about the sport is that it is growing at the collegiate level and gives girls another sport that they can go play at the collegiate level and get their education paid for. So, it’s just giving them more and more opportunities as they move forward. 

Leah Fleming: So, what has been the secret to your success this season do you think because certainly there are other schools that have started flag football but you are 16-0. What do you attribute this to?

Jake Bergdorf: Really, we have a great coaching staff. All of our coaches have coached tackle football at one point. But it really comes back to our players and their buy-in. Our girls don’t miss practice. They are at everything. They watch a ton of film. They all have a Hudl account. We have 10 players and they watch hours and hours of film because they’re just trying to perfect their craft and learn and do what we ask them to do. I mean it really comes down to them as players and just how they’ve come together as a group. And they play really, really hard for one another. You can have the greatest coach in the world but if you don’t have the willingness of the players to do what you ask them to do and for them to come together and play together you’re not going to be very good. It’s really all on them, players like Amber, and we have many other great players on the team that makes things go. It’s all on them. 

Leah Fleming: What are you looking forward to as you get ready for these playoffs?

Jake Bergdorf: I don’t personally like talking about and looking forward too much. With our group, we focus on today and today only because if we look ahead, we may overlook a team, and it’s win or go home at this point. We’ve got to take it day by day and focus on getting better today.

——

Jake Bergdorf is the coach of the girls flag football team at McEachern High School in Powder Springs. Amber Kirkpatrick is a senior quarterback of the  flag football team.

GPB Sports will live stream the first and second round playoff games from McEachern High School on Tuesday, Nov 29. The winners of the two first-round games will play in the second-round game immediately following.

Here is the schedule:

  • 6 p.m. Walton (in white jerseys) vs. McEachern (blue jerseys)
  • 7 p.m. Alpharetta (white jerseys) vs. Brookwood (dark jerseys)
  • 8 p.m. Winner of Game 2 (white jerseys) vs. winner of Game 1 (dark jerseys)

GPB will also stream live all the semifinal flag football games from the Falcons training facility in Suwanee on Dec. 5 and will air the championship games live on GPB-TV on Thursday, Dec. 8.

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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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