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With help from Seahawks, girls flag football could become sanctioned sport in WA - FlagSpin

With help from Seahawks, girls flag football could become sanctioned sport in WA

In Washington and around the country, flag football is getting its chance to shine on the big stage. 

Last week, the Emerald Ridge High School girls flag football team traveled to Detroit for the 2024 NFL draft and appeared on stage alongside Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett when he announced their third-round pick.

In front of thousands of fans with millions more watching on TV, Lockett used his platform to advocate making girls flag football a sanctioned sport in Washington, which could become reality next week when the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s Representative Assembly votes on the matter from Wednesday though May 10. 

“Everybody that’s watching in Washington, let’s vote and make this happen,” Lockett said. 

WIAA Executive Director Mick Hoffman says the state of the sport is “phenomenal.” 11 states have sanctioned girls flag football, with Colorado doing so just last week. Flag football is also scheduled to be a part of the 2028 Los Angeles Olympic Games

“We got the schools that are doing it as a trial,” Hoffman said. “I think there’s 83 schools last count, and they’re reporting phenomenal results. We’re getting as many as 60 to 65 girls out at some schools.”

At Emerald Ridge in Puyallup, coach Ayanna Arceneaux said that the program started out with 62 players. The Jaguars won the Western Washington Championship in their first season, which led to them getting chosen by the Seahawks to accompany Lockett onstage and serve as faces of the effort to get the sport sanctioned in Washington. 

“The whole experience was very surreal,” Arceneaux said. “It was an opportunity and experience to just showcase these girls and just be like, grateful for the experience that we have and also just to encourage other girls to come out and play flag football.”

In order to pass and become a sanctioned sport, the measure needs 60% of the vote to pass. With 53 voters weighing in, that means 32 need to be in favor of the new sport becoming official, Hoffman said. 

The Seahawks are one of the biggest supporters of the sport’s explosive growth and the sanctioning effort, with Managing Director of Community Engagement Becca Stout and former Huskies star Mario Bailey, who the Seahawks’ Vice President of Community Engagement and Legends, leading the charge. 

The Seahawks announced last week that the team is donating $24,000 to help launch new girls flag football teams in Issaquah, Bellingham, Cedarcrest, Wenatchee, Othello and Kingston. Since 2021, the team has given out $324,900 in grants to launch different programs around Washington. 

Between that money and a $100,000 grant from Nike that schools can use for uniforms, Hoffman says that the state has been given nearly half a million dollars to help schools get their programs off the ground. 

Tacoma Public Schools and the Franklin Pierce were two districts that piloted the first season of flag football before the COVID pandemic hit, and the sport has only gotten more popular since then. 

“Now it’s spread throughout the South Sound and Seattle jumped in last year,” Hoffman said. “Now we’ve seen Mount Si and some of the Issaquah area, so we’ve really seen it grow in that South Sound/Seattle region, and so we’re hoping that that continues to grow across the state.”

Having Lockett and the Emerald Ridge girls announce the pick on stage was part of an ongoing effort by the Seahawks to spread awareness of the upcoming vote, and players of the past and present have weighed in to show their support. 

“It’s just raising awareness any way possible,” Bailey said. “If you’ve looked in the past week, you’ve had Geno Smith tweet about it, Bobby Wagner tweet about it, [Lockett] tweet about it. Jermaine Kearse tweet about it, Lawyer Milloy, all former Seahawks and current Hawks have been tweeting about it. We’re just trying to raise as much awareness as we can.”

For the Emerald Ridge girls, the draft was an experience they won’t ever forget. 

“It was a dream come true and such an amazing opportunity,” senior Addison Ogden said. “Not only to get to meet all the football players there and the Seahawks who have supported our team the whole way, but just to represent the community and all the girls flag football teams out there, and hopefully be able to make it an official sport here.”

Hoffman sees the vote as a bit of a “coin flip” as schools from some parts of the state have expressed reservations that the sport will just transition girls from one sport from another. But he says the WIAA has tried to assuage those concerns by sharing data from the schools whose programs have shown tremendous growth. 

Emerald Ridge senior Kailey Verhoeven is confident that the assembly will give the sport the green light next week. With an estimated 500,000 girls playing football in 2023 according to the National Federation of State High School Associations, (a 63% increase since 2019), it seems like it’s just a matter of time. 

“I’m very, very confident in it becoming a sport,” Verhoeven said. “And I’m excited to see what happens.”

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