Girls Flag Football: Yeah, It’s a Thing

CIF gives the thumbs up for girls flag football, giving high school girls a new opportunity.

Sophomore+quarterback%2C+Gianna+Ioja%2C+looks+down+field+to+find+an+open+receiver+to+throw+to.+The+Stallions+battle+in+a+double+header+versus+Mission+Viejo+High+School+and+Woodbridge+High+School.

Joaquin Serrato

Sophomore quarterback, Gianna Ioja, looks down field to find an open receiver to throw to. The Stallions battle in a double header versus Mission Viejo High School and Woodbridge High School.

Sydney Hogancamp, Feature Editor

Flag football is finally an addition to high school sports but…for girls. The Matt Leinart Flag Football League has opened the door for teenage girls to play flag football through their individual high schools. 

The California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section approved girls flag football on September 29, 2022, to be an official high school sport in the upcoming 2023-24 school year, with a 61-26 vote. The next step is a state council meeting in February, and if approved, flag football for girls will be implemented next fall season. 

“I love flag football and I’m so excited to hear flag football is becoming a CIF sport. It’s a great experience that everyone should try,” said junior Jadyn Robinson, a player on the SJHHS girls flag football team. 

Although some high schools allow girls to play tackle football, flag football maintains the same strategies and the basics of football without the brutal plays and potentially dangerous contact. 

In flag football, a play ends when a member of the opposing team pulls one of two flags that are at the sides of the player’s  hips. No equipment is needed, other than a pair of cleats and a mouth guard. 

So far my favorite memory was being on the field and realizing that I get to play with my close friends and turn that into even more fulfilling memories”

— Gianna Ioja

Head Soccer Coach and Co-Athletic Director, Farrel Moore, has encouraged girls to join the school’s team. 

“Flag football is a different sport than tackle football. You know, I think it’s great that there is an addition of a new sport for girls to participate in. Girls can still play football if they want, but they’ve really been enjoying flag football and I think we’ve been fortunate enough to have this sport for the last two years and we are excited for it to be official,” said Moore. 

On campus, there are  nearly 3,000 students. It is difficult  for everyone to be a part of a school sport, considering most athletic teams don’t have more than 30 students on a roster. With CIF approving flag football, there is more opportunity for students  to get involved with the athletic side of SJHHS.

Matthew Leinart, an alumni who played football at USC and at the professional level, has hopes to change normality and make flag football a gender fluid sport. He established his own league in 2010 in hopes to create an equal opportunity for girls to participate in a new generation of football.

At San Juan Hills High School, girls flag football  began last year, in the fall of 2021. At this time,  SJHHS was  one of the original eight teams participating in the league. This year, flag football returned for a second season with four additional high schools. A  Junior Varsity team has also been implemented for any highschool with enough participants.

Corey Hill, a former defensive back at Stanford University, has been coaching the team since its start, and has devoted his time to developing students to athletes for a  sport they didn’t even know they were capable of playing. 

“I’m deep into sports. I don’t coach girls any different than I coach boys, which could be a bad thing, but I just kind of am who I am. With any kid I think you just need to try and listen, give them positive reinforcement, but then also make sure that you hold them to account on what they need to do. It’s a great opportunity for girls, another sport girls can play, it’s awesome,” said Hill.

“I had never played flag football up until last year. I am extremely happy I had the opportunity this year and last year to try and play this new sport, which I really like now,” said sophomore player, Reese Vaughn. 

The great thing about flag football is that it is inclusive of all grade levels. 

“When I was younger, both of my older brothers played flag football and I would watch them from the sidelines with my parents. I begged my dad to play but I was always so busy with other sports. Finding out San Juan Hills had a team at the school, I was really excited and asked how I could join.  It was the best decision to be able to play it for my high school without having to give up any other sports that I play,” said freshman Ava De Fillipo.  

The team is currently half way through their fall season, playing games every Wednesday at the Great Park in Irvine. The league has now presented the option to have games played at the team’s individual high schools. 

“So far my favorite memory was being on the field and realizing that I get to play with my close friends and turn that into even more fulfilling memories,” said sophomore Gianna Ioja. 

Now, students can watch the SJHHS Girls Flag Football team play other high schools in the Badlands. Follow their social media page for updates.