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I wanna play too: Girls flag football is a rising sport, but will it ever take hold in southwest Minnesota high schools?

In Worthington, there is one high school teen in particular who’d sign up.

“I think that would be very cool,” said WHS senior Abby Bristow, an important member of the Trojans gymnastics team who believes there are similarities between football and gymnastics that shouldn’t be overlooked. Team is very important in gymnastics. In football, too, she points out.

“I’ve always been interested in playing football,” said Bristow.

So are a lot of other girls. At Rosemount High School this summer, 10 teams in grades 6-8 and six teams in grades 9-12 are participating in a 10-game flag football season. Players come from several surrounding cities to join in the fun — so many of them, in fact, that another six-game schedule was drawn up for girls in grades 3-5.

Currently, six U.S. states sanction girls’ high school football: Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada and New York. There are national rankings (Florida teams tend to dominate).

Alabama will have the sport for the upcoming school year. There is a big push happening in Tennessee with help from the Tennessee Titans of the National Football League, as Williamson County Schools approved a pilot program starting in the spring of 2022.

Major national business leaders are expressing an interest, too. Nike is partnering with the NFL in a $5 million multi-year initiative to grow girls flag football in the prep ranks. The NFL’s interest is obvious. “Girls flag football demonstrates that football is for all, and the greater the participation, the stronger the game,” said executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent.

In Minnesota, far more attention has been directed toward addressing boys volleyball and girls wrestling at the high school level. An attempt to introduce boys volleyball as a sanctioned prep sport was denied last May. But a proposal adding a girls-only state wrestling tournament was approved.

Are we likely to see girls flag football in Minnesota high schools in the near future?

Probably not likely.

“There’s been nothing at all about girls football,” said Worthington High School athletic director Josh Dale. “I could see it happening in the metro area before here. I just don’t know how to sustain it. I mean, we’ve got a hard-enough time filling a team for boys football.”

There isn’t another high school for miles around that offers as many high school sports programs as Worthington — a reality that increases athletes’ variety of choices while at the same time making it harder for some teams to achieve the depth they desire.

Worthington Trojans head football coach Geno Lais, for his part, seems intrigued with the idea of girls football.

“I’m sure it would be popular,” he said.

Thirty miles to the east, Tom Schuller, veteran head coach of the Jackson County Central football program, acknowledges that girls flag football might be a good idea in general. But if JCC girls football were made available in the autumn, it’d run up against a uniquely popular girls volleyball option.

“Volleyball is a big deal around here. I don’t know if they could ever do it around here in the fall,” Schuller said.

In many Minnesota schools, of course, football for girls is limited to the “powder puff” variety played each fall during Homecoming week. These days, however, in a culture where girls and women are increasingly stretching boundaries, that’s not going to be enough.

Bristow has enjoyed football so much, and for so long, that the pixie tumbler tried to get on a team during her middle school years.

“My mom told me, absolutely not. You’re not playing,” she recalls.

These days, however, she is frequently working out alongside the Worthington High School team that is getting into shape for the fall season. No, Bristow is smart enough to know that it wouldn’t be healthy for her to attempt to get into a real game on the boys team as a wide receiver or a safety. She knows that getting hit by 220-pound linebackers wouldn’t be wise, and she’s equally wary of having to tackle a 185-pound running back coming at her with a full head of steam. Instead, she practices her kicking technique.

Once a week on average, she attempts her kicks with the goal of doing it for the Trojans in the one year she has remaining. It may be a longshot, but that doesn’t stop her from trying.

“I’m learning a lot of new things. I’m getting better every practice,” Bristow explained. “I like football, and it actually started as a joke. My friends said, ‘Abby, you should go kick.’ And I said, ‘Ha, ha,’ and now here we are.”

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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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