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March 17, 2022

Girls’ Flag Football on the Rise Amid Recent CIF-Sanction

Female athletes can now take the field with an exciting new platform to showcase their talents on a whole new level
The+varsity+girls%E2%80%99+flag+football+team+makes+their+way+towards+the+opposing+team%E2%80%99s+end+zone.
Mahati Iyer
The varsity girls’ flag football team makes their way towards the opposing team’s end zone.

Ever since the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) approved girls’ flag football to be a CIF-sanctioned sport for the 2023-24 school year, a new era of opportunity has dawned on students looking to join the sport.

The decision to add girls’ flag football into the CIF division was spearheaded by the Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) by a March 2023 board meeting and has now elicited excitement from athletes looking to make their mark on the field.

For senior Maci Land, the recognition of girls’ flag football as a CIF-sanctioned sport impacted her significantly.
“Not having [girls’ flag football] be a CIF-sport made us feel like we mattered less, compared to football,” Land said. “The decision was big because [now] we can actually be promoted by the school.”

For senior, co-captain and national team player Milan Heisdorf, this momentous occasion signified the culmination of a lifelong love of flag football.

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“I started playing flag football in second grade and I was always drawn to the sport,” Heisdorf said. “I [continued] to play from [recreational] leagues to clubs and eventually played for high school.”

When senior and co-captain Emily Harris first moved to Irvine, she joined girls’ flag football as a way to form meaningful connections.

“I was trying to meet new people in the [sport] and get to know them,” Harris said.

Similar to other sports, girls’ flag football requires a team dynamic that, when utilized positively, becomes a cornerstone of success on and off the field.
“All of the girls on the team are awesome,” Land said. “It’s like playing with my best friends all in one team.”

This sense of belonging and interconnectedness continues well past the final touchdown of the game.
For instance, Harris regards her team experience as extraordinary, a stark reminder the teams that become closely-knit share not only the highs of victories, but also the lows of defeats.

“I’ve noticed a strong team dynamic and all the girls are very supportive,” Harris said. “No one gets upset and we work together well.”
As a dual sport athlete of flag football and basketball, senior and co-captain Teagan Burrus brings a wealth of experience in establishing a strong team dynamic.

Varsity girls’ flag football gather together to strategize and motivate each other for the rest of the game. (Mahati Iyer)

“[Flag football] is definitely a different speed than basketball in terms of team dynamics,” Burrus said.
Alternatively, the unity of the team extends far beyond the football field.

“We’re going to practices, but also hanging out after school, so it’s definitely a good mix,” Burrus said.
Despite the athletic rigor of the sport, some underestimate the sheer athleticism and determinism it takes to play flag football.

“Some people could see flag football as a joke, but it is absolutely not,” Land said. “It requires field [intelligence quotient] (IQ), knowledge of the game and teamwork.”

Burrus concurs, pointing out how some may misunderstand the level of physicality in the sport.
“I feel that some people may see girls’ flag football as a joke, and they think there’s going to be no [physical] contact when playing,” Burrus said.

Individuals might not fully grasp the aspect of physical contact present in flag football, as it offers a less intensive form of contact compared to its tackle-present counterpart.
“[Flag football] is not tackle football,” Burrus said. “We have our own strategies, plays and teammates.”

Despite these misconceptions, physical contact plays an essential role in flag football as it allows players to move with agility and speed, which often creates qualities that translate into other sports.

“Most of [the girls] on the team play other sports,” Land said. “I play soccer, but I think flag football is good because it challenges my IQ in a completely different way and is a good form of cross training.”

Alternatively, skills gained from flag football impact the players outside of the sport.

“Playing flag football has given me a lot of confidence in what I can do, including [in] my day-to-day abilities,” Heisdorf said. “Being able to guide other players who do not know the game is personally helpful.”

In light of the sport’s unpredictable yet exciting nature, Heisdorf offers an important perspective, emphasizing the need to stay calm under pressure and continue to instill positivity in the team.

“Not everything can be perfect when it comes to playing the game,” Heisdorf said. “People might make a play on us, so it’s important to control the controllable.”

Girls’ flag football’s recognition by CIF and IUSD has breathed new life into the sport on our campus, and in turn changed the way it is perceived. Since then, girls’ flag football has opened up new opportunities for students, such as being able to compete in annual end-of-year tournaments against neighboring schools.

As more schools in Southern Orange County embrace this sport, individuals can anticipate a promising future for girls’ flag football, within the football field and beyond.

This story was originally published on Golden Arrow on November 17, 2023.