Madonna Thompson’s favorite sport might not be the one you think.
She went to the Final Four while playing point guard at Alabama and has coached women’s basketball for the last 23 years as well.
However, football is tops for the Shelton State Community College coach, who was first throwing the ball in the yard with her father.
The AHSAA announced in April it will sponsor girls flag football during the fall in partnership with the Atlanta Falcons, NFL FLAG and Nike.
Following her Alabama basketball career, Thompson, 47, would win a national flag football championship on an women’s travel team.
“I would’ve loved to play flag football (in high school),” Thompson said. “No doubt. I was all big into basketball, but I grew up playing soccer and basketball. Soccer and basketball are my two sports, but I would’ve loved to play flag football.”
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Following her 1995 senior women’s basketball season, Thompson joined an intramural flag football team, Fiasco, during graduate school. The Cottondale, Tennessee native played many intramural sports, but flag football was her clear favorite.
“We always had maybe one or two of the former ‘Bama girls and some that didn’t play a sport — some really good athletes on campus,” Thompson said. “And we put together a team. We were called Southern Comfort (one season), and I’m pretty sure we were named after an alcoholic beverage. I was the quarterback. The way we played it, you played both sides, and I also played safety.
“It was fun. We had a blast just traveling all over. I traveled with ‘Bama (and) of course that was all serious with basketball, but then I played football, and it was like I still had belonged to something — I was still part of a team.”
Thompson said winning a national championship and getting flag football gear from Nike was amazing, but the camaraderie is what sticks most.
“It gives our young ladies something to be involved with,” said Alvin Briggs, AHSAA associate executive director and head of football. “… We’re in the 100th year of the (AHSAA), and we’re still fighting for more sports. We’re giving our young ladies a chance to compete for a championship.”
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Thompson and Fiasco would put together money for hotels and played as far away as Nebraska, Miami and Georgia. With Thompson’s point guard instincts, the team ran a strong offense and allowed just 34 points during its 22-game season, coach Bob Taylor said.
“I told some kids that have played for me that I had a female that played quarterback for me that could throw the ball further than y’all could,” Taylor said.
Taylor, the 2016 AISA football coach of the year and current principal at Meadowview Christian School in Selma, hopes the AISA can eventually add girls flag football after seeing how it goes in the AHSAA.
“We were so successful playing flag football back then,” Taylor said. “I have a daughter of my own now, and she’s been a water girl for our football teams. That’s a major thing for girls athletics to be able to do that and participate in football in some shape, form or fashion. … It’s pretty neat for me to see that 26 years later that this is actually a high school sanctioned sport.”
The Alabama flag football team won its regional championship and advanced to the national tournament in New Orleans, where it earned a spot in the championship game at most SEC football team’s dream destination, the Sugar Bowl.
Fiasco defeated Western Kentucky 13-0 for the title, Taylor said, before watching the 1995 Sugar Bowl between Virginia Tech and Texas from the sidelines. Thompson was named the offensive MVP.
Thompson didn’t think she’d see the day the AHSAA sanctioned girls flag football.
“I’m really shocked,” she said, “because for a lot of times those things in high schools have just been club sports or things for the kids to do, more on the activity side, not on the athletic side where I’m assuming you’re going to have a regional championship and a state champion that’s actually recognized by the athletic association. So I’m shocked. I never thought it would be an actual recognized sport.”
The Alabama High School Athletic Association flag football championship game will be in Birmingham with the Super 7 championship games. Alabama is the fifth state to sponsor the sport, joining Alaska, Nevada, Florida and Georgia.
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