This is the first year in the history of LAUSD that a girls flag football season has taken place.
LAUSD decided to introduce girls flag football as a new high school sport because they wanted to give girls more opportunities to play male-dominated sports.
While 102 schools initially signed up to create a program, only 42 were dedicated enough to the idea to assemble teams and incorporate girls flag football into their sports departments. Van Nuys was a part of that small number.
Last semester, it was announced that girls flag football would be a new sport offered by the school. Athletic Director Mr. Dion Coley sent out a school-wide message asking if any girls were interested in joining the team. Around 15 girls signed up.
All he needed was a coach to lead the program. Mr. Coley believed Coach William Cox was the perfect candidate for the position, but it wasn’t easy convincing him to take on the role. Mr. Coley chose coach Cox to become the coach for girls flag football because he was the boys varsity football coach last season.
He was hesitant to say yes, even though he has experience coaching football, but after hearing that there was already a list of girls wanting to join, he gave in. The main concern that Coach Cox had to consider before taking the position was that he had never coached a flag football team but he was willing to learn for the girls who signed up.
“I was asked multiple times to start the program,” Coach Cox said. “At the time, I had been offered a coaching position at Cleveland to coach their defensive line up for their varsity boys football team. I think after about the third time he asked me, I said yes.”
After becoming the head coach, Coach Cox held tryouts in the beginning of June and the girls flag football team was formed.
Overall the team has had an alright year, winning four games but losing eight. The Wolves won their first game against Sherman Oaks CES on Sept. 11 with a score of 12-6. The team unfortunately went on a two game losing streak losing to Marshal with a score of 32-18 and Cleveland High school with a score of 20-6. The team came back from those games even better than before when they beat out Eastside High school with a score of 12-0.
The lowest point of their season was during their game against Cleveland High School on Sept. 21. The Wolves lost with a score of 20-6. On top of that, tensions between the players and the opposing team escalated. Twice, disagreements almost resulted in physical fights, and a copious amount of inappropriate language was used.
“The sportsmanship was not there,” varsity running back Mayleene Zamora said. “We were trying to be respectful. As much as we wanted to stand our ground as Van Nuys, it was not the right thing to do so we knew that we had to be civil. At the end of the day, we were there to play a game.”
The team has held two fundraisers this season through which they sold merchandise and breast cancer awareness pins. Nonetheless, they have not gotten the amount of attention other sports teams receive.
“Football is more appreciated because they already have a foundation, they already have a large background and they already have a hype around the sport,” varsity free safety Olamide Olumide said. “We don’t have anybody to support us yet. We have been winning games and people aren’t there to see it. If people paid more attention and saw how good we actually are, then maybe they would be more hyped up to come and support us.”
When it comes to funding and promotional resources, they girls are quite literally starting from the bottom and building from the ground up. The team has had problems with buying extra stuff for the team to enjoy such as hoodies, and senior gifts.
The team is also aware of the stigma surrounding football that discourages some girls from joining the sport, particularly the idea that it is harsh and dangerous. As a former cheerleader, varsity player Elizabeth Castillo empathizes with this perception.
“I remember when we were trying to recruit girls, I noticed that many girls were scared of the assumed aggressiveness and the masculinity of the sport,” she said. “Going into the season, I was very scared because it was brand new. I came from a very girly sport and I thought it would have been rough out there, but it’s not at all. Now that I’m playing more, it’s a really fun game.”
The girls feel great about their season thus far.
“For the first girls flag football team at Van Nuys, I think that we’re gonna make history,” Zamora said.
They hope to leave a lasting impression.
“I want people to know that we scored a lot of touchdowns, that we were a really connected team and that we had a strong bond,” varsity tight end Yaneli Zuniga said.
All in all, the addition of the flag football team provides an opportunity for students to represent the school community. With this new sport, there’s potential for setting a foundation for future flag football enthusiasts at school.
“As the first team, I hope to let other girls know that this is a sisterhood,” Castillo said. “It’s not about being on top of one another, it’s about supporting and critiquing each other and taking it in positively because we all have to work together and try our best to win.”
The abridged version of this article appeared in the Fall 2023 print edition. This is an uncut version.