Girls flag football is new CIF sport, could come to OA

Laura Liu & Christine Nguyen, Editor-in-Chief & Managing Editor

Amidst the rising popularity in girls’ flag football across Californian high schools, the CIF Federated Council voted on Feb. 3 to add it as a sanctioned sport for the upcoming 2023-24 school year.

The surge in interest was largely facilitated by NFL teams such as the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers, who  have   been  co-running a pilot high school league for girls in Southern California.

Anaheim Union High School District aims to add girls flag football to its schools as well, including Oxford Academy. With equipment supplied by the Chargers, such as flags and balls, athletics director David Clifton and coach Stephen McJilton are eager to get the program started. Given Oxford’s smaller student body, it may prove tricky to get off the ground, but they remain hopeful.

From a survey sent out to grades eighth through eleventh, 24 people indicated they were interested. If implemented, the sport would take place in the fall, with practices in the spring coached by Mr. Clifton, assisted by Dr. McJilton.

Although they expect to spend a while teaching the basics, they would approach the sport like a high school boys football program, with a focus on weight training, conditioning, and skill work.

“I think it’s something interesting for the girls to do. Who would have thought our football team would be a girls flag team before we get a boys team?” Mr. Clifton said.

Aside from AUHSD, no other schools in 605 League will be taking up the sport, and games will likely remain within the district. Despite this, Mr. Clifton predicts flag football’s popularity will continue to heighten, especially considering how dangerous traditional football can be.

One of flag football’s larger appeals is that no one gets tackled — the play ends when an opposing player pulls a flag from the ball-carrier’s waist, alleviating concerns about the risk of concussions and other injuries.

“I see flag football gaining traction because it’s safer,” Mr. Clifton said. “Is there still contact? Yeah. But it’s not the devastating contact.”

Whether girls flag football will be implemented this coming year or not is currently up in the air, resting solely on student interest.

“If I end up with 15 solid, committed girls, I would say we do it,” Mr. Clifton said. “I’m looking for kids who can throw a ball, catch a ball, and aren’t afraid to hit somebody.”