If you’ve ever had any part in youth flag football games, particularly that of the 9/11 Flag Football League, you know that the teams are typically named after an NFL team: the Broncos, Giants, etc.
One team, however, took their name and added a spin to it.
Insert the Packers Cuties, composed of 12 girls in the first and second grades. Besides the fact they’re currently the only all-girls team in their division, they also stand apart from the crowd in uniforms consisting of sparkly green and gold bows and sequin-covered gold shorts.
According to head coach Casilda Forte, who also coaches in the Pre-K/K division of the league and for P.S. 3, where she teaches, the decision to coach an all-girls team in a division of only boys was a challenging, but obvious choice.
“I started coaching in 2021 in the midst of Covid 19, which was a challenge since everything was so irregular; however, what made things easier was that I taught the majority of my kids in school and was able to build a connection with them both on and off the field,” said Forte, who currently teaches Pre-K. “When this team was created, I decided to play in the 9/11 League for many reasons despite being the only all-girls team, including that my two oldest kids played there.
“People ask me why I wouldn’t go to another league with all-girls teams, but this was the right environment for us to be able to learn and play, especially just starting out as a coach and with young players.”
Forte, who is assisted by Karina Montalvo and Giancarlo Panichi, also noted that the competition the team has faced has helped them grow throughout the three years she’s been coaching.
“This team has come so far from where they started, not even in terms of wins and losses but in their confidence to go on the field and compete,” said Forte. “Playing with the boys has definitely made them stronger, both physically and mentally, and they’re not afraid to play anyone because of it.”
“What these coaches have done for this team, especially my daughter Aubree, is just unlike any other team in the best way,” said parent Amy Federico. “She was shy and not very outgoing, and coach Forte both built her confidence and gave the girls a close-knit family.
“Coach Forte loves these kids like her own and will give anything to help them become the best versions of themselves.”
One of those things include custom uniforms, from their jerseys to the bows in their hair.
“I didn’t like the uniforms we had at first,” laughed Forte, who bought and supplied the uniforms for her team. “So I asked the head of our league, Mike Fidanza, if I could change it and he said to do anything to make the girls happy; he’s all about giving back to the kids, and is extremely supportive of our goals in this league.
“I constantly get told what a great thing we’re doing for our kids and get compliments on our uniforms,” added Forte. “I’ve had travel teams ask me if I would customize their jerseys, and I always say yes. It’s just for the fun of it, honestly, and if it’s for the kids then it’s a no-brainer.”
“I love playing in our uniforms with all the sparkles,” said second-grader Martina Ali. “We have a lot of fun playing for coach Forte, and both she and her uniforms are crazy and fun at the same time.”
As her season came to an end this past Friday, Forte has one main goal amongst many for the future as she moves up to the 3rd/4th grade division: to get more girls to join in the hopes of being able to play an all-girls team and, possibly, play in an all-girls division.
“My goal is to get girls of any age to see that flag football is fun and that they can do anything they set their minds to,” concluded Forte. “Even if it’s not my team they join, I’m willing to make their uniforms and add the bling just like mine, and just make it so anyone who wants to play has the opportunity to.
“It’s worth it if it’s for the girls.”
The Packers Cuties roster consists of Emily Higgins, Alessia Forte, Bianca Farraj, Paige Tanjutco, Martina Ali, Aubree Federico, Mia Montalvo, Ava Panichi, Gianna Beshara, Avery Attianese, Vivienne Toback, and Kiera Tronolone.
The 9/11 Flag Football League, in addition to looking for girls to play in the 3rd/4th grade division, is also looking for coaches for these teams. If interested, please contact Mike Fidanza at 347-992-5755.