While the sport of American football has long been a favorite past time in the United States, flag football has historically been seen as a fun, recreational activity but lacking professional outlets. Over the last couple of years however, the sport has seen an influx of new leadership that are pushing the limits to new heights. The increasing rise of varsity girls flag football programs nationwide has also seen tremendous growth. The sport is primed to explode thanks to many new players and initiatives supporting the movement!
The Foundations of Varsity Girls Flag Football
While it may seem like a lesser known fact, flag football has actually been a varsity sport at the state level for over 18 years now. The Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) was one of the first to formally adopt varsity girls flag football as an official sport. Today it actually has more girls flag football programs participating today than it does boys tackle programs, with over 291 teams competing in 2019.
The implementation of Title IX was a major part of the sports introduction in Florida, and a big factor for many school nationwide as well. And Florida is not alone. Nevada, Alaska, Georgia, New York and Arizona all have programs for Varsity Flag Football, and many others are receiving heavy pressure to implement it thanks to recent developments that are making it more and more appealing to players and school districts alike.
NFL and NAIA Partner to Launch Women’s Flag Football Program
One of the biggest developments for the sport came just last year, when the NAIA officially added varsity girls flag football to it’s lineup of collegiate sport offerings, including scholarship opportunities for high school girls worldwide that is a huge gateway to additional program interest. Seen by many as the first major step in creating a pathway for high school athletes to continue in their development at a collegiate level while earning scholarship opportunities goes a long in removing the stigma from the sport as simply recreational.
With the news of NAIA adding flag football as a varsity sport by 2021, it is exciting for our schools who currently participate in flag football here in Florida. This will give our girls more opportunities to participate at the next level. – Jeremy Hernandez, FHSAA
Nike Pledges $5 Million to growing Girls Varsity Flag Football
An even more recent development came just this month when Nike, in collaboration with the NFL, officially announced it’s desire for girls flag football to be a varsity sport in all states nationwide by pledging up to $100,000 in product to state athletic associations that offer the sport or demonstrate progress through pilot programs in 2021. This should be highly appealing to many state organizations where funding for new programs can be a barrier to launch, and when coupled with Title IX and nationwide press with increasing interest may be just the ticket to getting states to seriously consider it.
Nike Sports Camps also recently announced the addition of Nike Flag Football Camps to it’s lineup, partnering with the Flag Football World Championship Tour to bring 10 camps to the circuit nationwide that will serve host both boys and girls.
“The FFWCT is leading the way for the sport of flag football through their tournaments. As the leader in the sports camp industry, US Sports Camps, operators of NIKE Sports Camps, looks forward to helping this cause by developing quality flag football instruction to young athletes across the country at these events.” – Michael de Surville, Senior VP and National Director at US Sports Camps.
FFWCT has also added girls varsity flag football showcase events to it’s tournament schedule in anticipation of increased interest for the division and scouting opportunities for coaches, as have other organizations such as NFL Flag and more!
The Future of Varsity Girls Flag Football
While varsity girls flag football becoming a collegiate sport is a tremendous step, the sport for women doesn’t end there. A major push by the likes of the NFL, NFL Flag, USA Football and others is underway to work towards Olympic inclusion, possibly as early as 2028. While a pathway exists and makes sense, a lot of work still has to be done to guarantee a spot at the table. If success is achieved in this arena, many believe the sport will reach a level of credibility that would make it an unstoppable force for major growth and popularity with a professional outlet achievable.
Another organization has added a pathway towards professionalizing the sport as well, with the AFFL recently announcing a $200,000 prize for it’s women’s division to be held in the Summer of 2021.
“Flag football now offers a new path for women athletes through varsity play in high school and college followed by pro-play in the AFFL,” said Mr. Lewis. “The prospects for explosive growth at the grassroots level are as exciting as they have ever been.”
These combined with the growth at the youth, high school and collegiate level are major factors in the tremendous rise of varsity girls flag football nationwide. Next stop: International.