Sierra’s new girl’s flag football team runs onto the field during the official kickoff practice at San Bernardino High Stadium on Friday, April 7, 2023. (Photo by Anjali Sharif-Paul, The Sun/SCNG)
A week before the San Bernardino City Unified School District kicks off its inaugural women’s flag football season, dozens of teenage girls from area high schools huddled at San Bernardino High School to watch 12 professional female players demonstrate the nuances of the game.
Joining the pros were Los Angeles Rams cheerleaders and representatives.
The women’s flag football league is part of the school district’s Expanded Learning-Sunrise/CAPS program and was started in partnership with Athletes for Life and former NFL Pro Bowl running back Greg Bell.
Games begin Friday, April 14, and continue through the end of the school year.
A championship game is planned for the end of May.
Eleven high schools in San Bernardino and Highland have teams, most with nine to 10 players. Some teams have as many as 16 girls. Each squad will play twice a week.
Games are played in two 20-minute halves, running clock. Six girls from each team will be on the field at one time.
While women’s flag football becomes a CIF-sanctioned sport in fall 2024, San Bernardino school district officials wanted to give their girls a head start on the competition.
“I couldn’t see this happening in my day and age,” said Bell, whose pro career spanned from 1984-1990. “I’m even amazed it’s happening now. But I’m happy it is. We’re giving more people the opportunity to love and play the game. The game itself is a special game. The life lessons you get from it are so special.
“The greatest skill you learn from the game of football is how to get up when you’re knocked down,” Bell added. “When you fall, the game of football teaches you to get up with conviction and get started again.”
After the soft launch of the San Bernardino league this spring, the district plans to move the 2023-24 women’s flag football season to the fall, with contests scheduled ahead of Friday night football.
Including the girls in the Friday Night Lights festivities, Bell said, “would allow families who have never been a part of Friday night football to see what the fun and whole experience is about.”
District leadership should be commended for bringing the league to fruition, Bell added.
“All the people who saw this as a necessary thing,” he said, “hats off to them. They cared enough about students to take advantage of the fact we have these extra funds, and put them to good use. A lot of these women never played sports at all, but wished they could play football.
“Now they’re a part of it.”
This summer, Athletes for Life will host its 23rd annual IAM GIFTED football camps with San Bernardino High alum and Minnesota Vikings running back Alexander Mattison.
The camp is free for all county youth age 6 and older.
For more information, visit AthletesforLife.org.