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IHSA, Chicago Bears announce sanction of high school girls flag football | Top Stories - FlagSpin

IHSA, Chicago Bears announce sanction of high school girls flag football | Top Stories

LAKE FOREST, Ill. — In a historic moment for girls’ athletics in the state of Illinois, the IHSA announced flag football will become an official high school sport at Halas Hall on Wednesday.

Guilford High School Girls Flag Football Team

The Guilford High School Girls Flag Football Team

Now, state championships will be held for the sport after a unanimous vote (36-0) from the IHSA in late 2023. The Chicago Bears have been taking the lead in advancing the sport in the state of Illinois.

“Anytime you get an opportunity to make history is incredibly special. This is long overdue. But the time is now,” Bears president Kevin Warren said. “And it’s not important for us to look back. But to really look forward, and to figure out what we can do, to make sure that we recognize that this is just the beginning of girls flag football in the state of Illinois,”

In 2021, they launched a league in collaboration with Chicago Public Schools. Since 2023, the program now has more than 120 teams statewide, as well as leagues in the Western Suburbs and Rockford.

“Anyone can play the sport, and it’s very welcoming, the girls have the opportunity to do whatever they want,” Juliana Zavala with Chicago Public Schools said. “They’re literally the trailblazers of this sport.”

Many faces from around the Rockford area were also in attendance.

“It’s so special,” the head coach of Guilford, Greg Taylor, said. “We have some young ladies that came out in our first year that probably had never done anything, and I’m not just talking, they didn’t even play chess. And they got involved… And they are now able to do all the skills, all the routine stuff, and it’s built their confidence up so much.”

Lamont Jones of the Rockford Park District has been instrumental in creating leagues within Rockford to advance the sport. He touched on why the sport is growing so much.

“Football is a very, very inexpensive sport. Like they said during the press conference. We don’t have to buy, you know, expensive equipment, like some sports like with with hockey,” Jones said. I think that you know, going forward, more and more young ladies are going to see the growth of flag football.

The day was very impactful to everyone, but the flag football players that were there, probably took the most away from it.

“Men sometimes underestimate us women. We can do anything a man can do, we can go to the military, we can play football, we play basketball, which isn’t anything new. But it’s very, sometimes makes me want to cry, because, you know, finally, we’re coming up the ladder,” Mya Page of Guilford said.

Rockford Auburn senior, Carrington Weatherly, was in attendance.

“To see that something that hasn’t really been looked at in the past couple years, grow so quickly, it brings a lot of hope to see the change that can happen in the future.” Weatherly said.

“I’ve always loved watching my brothers playing with them and stuff like that. We never got opportunities like this, we never really got to play especially in high school,” Harlem quarterback, Giada Nowling, said. “We never got the opportunity to play sports like they did. So it just feels like it feels like it’s about time.”

According to Sports Business Journal, “around 474,000 young [American] women between the ages of 6 and 17 played flag [in 2022] — a massive 63% increase from 2019. 

The sharp increase is coming around at the perfect time. The 2028 Los Angeles Summer Olympic Games will have flag football. So, increasing opportunities for future generations of girls’ flag football is set in stone.

The first IHSA state championship will be conducted in the 2024 season.

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