The California Interscholastic Federation, or CIF, unanimously approved the creation of a girls’ flag football league in February, allowing for official league games to take place at all public high schools within the state.
This has major consequences for high school athletics, but also for women’s sports around the country.
Before the introduction of the league sport, the CIF had allowed high schools to form their own flag football clubs for girls, but the opportunity to create official leagues within high schools gives the sport a higher status — and therefore better opportunities for athletes and a bigger push for establishing leagues.
The CIF decision makes California one of the latest states to officially recognize the sport in this manner; other states, including Alabama, Alaska, Florida and Nevada, have already added the program to their public school systems. The state of New York has become one of the latest to follow the trend of the growth of the sport, announcing that it will be hosting its first-ever state championships in 2024.
Along with multiple states introducing the league and allowing high schools to create their own clubs, NFL teams have also been strong proponents of these developments. The Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers have specifically been outspoken in this area, even creating a pilot high school league for girls in Southern California for the 2021-22 academic year. These efforts come in hopes of creating an inclusive environment within football.
Mirroring the increase of popularity the sport has seen the last few years, various organizations have also made financial contributions to help grow access and participation. Nike and the NFL put in place a $5 million grant for the sport, showcasing the amount of support for the league; not only from high schools, but also from professional organizations.
This might come as a surprise given that flag football is not a collegiate sport and the support of the NFL and other big athletic organizations tends to go toward preparing athletes for collegiate athletics and beyond.
Many argue that the CIF’s approval of the new league was long overdue. The move not only opens up a multitude of opportunities for many female athletes, but also symbolizes a societal push to diminish barriers between men’s and women’s sports.
With the approval of the league, many high schools are preparing to embrace the sport and get started with creating teams and opportunities for an immense number of high school girls across the state.
The CIF decision has also had a local impact: Berkeley High School, according to the Berkeley High Jacket, is considering adding the sport to its program. Many, according to the newspaper, have expressed interest and excitement for these developments. However, the paper also reported that there is a concern that the sport would not be able to get enough traction in time for the 2023-24 season for there to be a proper league set up within the district.
For Berkeley and beyond, the introduction of girls’ flag football creates a unique opportunity for girls who are interested in playing football but have never been given a proper chance to play or be involved physically.
Despite the complications and long-awaited arrival, the introduction of the league by the CIF will help grow women’s athletics within California and will bring opportunities for many more people. The true results of the league will be showcased in the upcoming high school fall season, when the leagues will be in full swing.