Flag football could become an official girls' high school sport in California as early as the 2023-24 school year. The southern section of the California Interscholastic Federation is scheduled to vote on it Sept, 29. If approved, the state federation would take it up next month.
"One of the CIF goals is to increase participation opportunities for girls in order to close the gap between the number of girls and boys participants." reads the proposal.
California schools allow girls to play on the tackle football teams, but not many chose to do it. Flag football is a safer alternative because there is no tackling. It is also more affordable because pads are helmets are not needed. The high school teams would utilize NIRSA rules with some modifications.
The Los Angeles Chargers and Los Angeles Rams partnered with Nike for a pilot season, which had eight high schools from the Los Angeles area participating during January and February of 2022. Former Charger's community relations manager Chase Hartman told the Associated Press that more than 70 schools had filled out interest forms for the pilot league, which was "quite frankly more than we were prepared for."
Northern California is not being left out, as the San Francisco 49ers are working on a similar project in their area. It's certainly a good team to promote the sport because Katie Sowers made history in 2019 by becoming the first female to coach in the Super Bowl as part of the 49ers staff.
The initiative is not just a west coast trend. In 2021, the Philadelphia Eagles established the Eagles Girls Flag Football League of Philadelphia with 16 teams. The Atlanta Falcons were one of the major pioneers, starting a pilot program in Gwinnett County with 19 schools in 2018. This year, the Falcons also began sponsoring three Montana high school teams.
Currently seven states have already sanctioned flag football for girls -- Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada and New York. In 2021, Nike and the NFL partnered for a $5 million grant multi-year initiative dedicated to grow the sport.
According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, the number of high school girls playing flag football in United States doubled in the decade leading up to the 2018-19 school year. The sports is also growing at the collegiate level. Women's flag football became an official National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics varsity sport in 2021. Nine states have at least one program with a team.