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Panthers initiative with high school girls flag football kicks off in Wake County - FlagSpin

Panthers initiative with high school girls flag football kicks off in Wake County

She is but one spark though, a part of a larger push blazing across the state. For the past three years, the Carolina Panthers have worked with school districts across North Carolina, helping to found girls high school football leagues at the grassroots level, with the ultimate objective to have girls flag football sanctioned as a varsity sport by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association.

In order to be considered for sanctioning by the NCHSAA, a sport must demonstrate participation 25 percent of all member schools in the state (for North Carolina, that would mean 108 schools) or half of a respective classification (i.e., 2A, 3A, 4A, etc.).

“The sanctioning process requires support and buy-in from school districts across the region. We are excited about the progress which has been made and the prospect for girls flag football to be sanctioned in the future,” Riley Fields, Panthers Director of Community Relations, said this week. “The prospect of girls competing for state championships for their schools is exciting.”

Of interest, there has been plenty. In just over two years, the Panthers have partnered with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, the Cabarrus County Schools and Union County Public Schools, for a total of 36 schools participating already. The addition of the Wake County district will bring another 20 schools into the fold.

New Hanover County Schools is set to bring four more schools into the program in March. With the potential for one other district later this year, the sport will have blown past the 50 percent marker, and be sent to a vote with the NCHSAA to be sanctioned.

“The combustible energy surrounding girls high school flag football is akin to if you’ve ever seen a dry Fraser Fir Christmas tree catching on fire,” Fields said. “That’s the type of energy that’s surrounding it.”

The Wake County school system is the largest in the state. Having the district participating in the effort was always a goal and has been a well thought out process by the district. Getting to this point though, getting to Thursday, took time. The waiting process gave Coco time to drum up excitement amongst her classmates and friends, who were eager to play ball.

“At the beginning when she was like, ‘I kind of want to play flag football,’ and we suggested, ‘just go to the AD to start a club. Like how hard can it be?’ Now we know,” laughed Thayer Lavielle, Coco’s mom. “It was something that I think we felt was going to be, we never envisioned it to be what it is going to be, which is kind of exciting.”

It took months of staying in the ears of the right people, organizing massive powderpuff games, and even studying what the school districts who’d already partnered with the Panthers were doing. Coco, who is only just now a sophomore in high school, made sure to attend the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Girls High School Flag Football Championship Tournament hosted by the Panthers at Bank of America Stadium last May. She just wanted to see it up close, a reminder that her dream was possible.

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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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