California to vote on making women flag soccer a highschool sport statewide

REDONDO BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Elsa Morin gripped the soccer and launched an ideal spiral. Then the 17-year-old dodged out and in of cones and yanked the flag hanging from one other woman’s belt for a key defensive play.

“One thing about soccer simply will get me actually excited,” mentioned the senior at Southern California’s Redondo Union Excessive College. “I’ve at all times simply wished to play.”

Morin was amongst about three dozen women who lately tried out for the varsity’s flag soccer crew. The scene at Redondo’s subject is enjoying out with rising frequency in California and across the nation as women flag soccer soars in reputation.

The variety of women enjoying flag soccer in U.S. excessive colleges doubled to 11,000 within the decade main as much as 2018-19, based on the Nationwide Federation of State Excessive College Associations.

On Thursday, the southern part of the California Interscholastic Federation is anticipated to vote on making it an official women’ highschool sport. If accepted, the state federation — which governs interscholastic sports activities in California — would take it up subsequent month with a aim of constructing it an official sport within the nation’s most populous state for the 2023-24 college yr.

Flag soccer already is a sanctioned highschool women sport in states together with Alabama and Nevada. And it was added as a collegiate sport by the Nationwide Affiliation of Intercollegiate Athletics, with schools in Florida, Georgia, Kansas and elsewhere fielding groups.

Whereas women are allowed to play deal with soccer on highschool groups in California, few do. Flag soccer permits them to expertise the game in a approach “that has all of the data, abilities, and skill and the technique of conventional soccer with out a number of the extra violent components of it,” mentioned Paula Hart Rodas, president-elect of the CIF Southern Part’s council who beforehand coached Lawndale Excessive College’s flag crew.

In flag soccer, nobody will get tackled. A play ends when an opposing participant pulls off the flag of a ball-carrier. It additionally is way cheaper than deal with soccer since no helmets or pads are wanted.

The NFL sees flag soccer as a approach to encourage its feminine followers. The Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers began a pilot highschool league over the past college yr, giving many ladies a primary shot at enjoying.

Chase Hartman, the Chargers’ former neighborhood relations supervisor, mentioned greater than 70 colleges stuffed out curiosity types for the brand new pilot league. The NFL groups chosen eight colleges to begin and offered uniforms and kit.

“The response was fairly frankly greater than we have been ready for,” he mentioned.

Jake Jimenez, coach of the crew at Redondo Union, mentioned with COVID-19 nonetheless circulating he wasn’t certain what number of women would wish to play. However almost three dozen confirmed up for the primary tryouts final college yr, and the same quantity got here out this yr. Jimenez might solely settle for half of them. He hopes that after California sanctions the game, he can construct a junior varsity crew and develop a pipeline of gamers.

“They liked being the pioneer of ladies in sports activities and women in flag soccer,” he mentioned. “We’re really trailblazers.”

He mentioned he’d prefer to schedule video games proper earlier than his college’s deal with soccer video games to advertise the crew.

The NFL — which invited a bunch of pilot league flag gamers to hitch tennis legend Billie Jean King for the coin toss on the final Tremendous Bowl — has been driving curiosity at the highschool degree. However flag soccer has been gaining in reputation amongst youthful gamers for years, particularly amid rising concern concerning the danger of concussions and different accidents from deal with soccer.

Mark Broersma, commissioner of the Friday Evening Lights flag soccer group in Southern California, mentioned women make up a fraction of the 25,000 kids from kindergarten to eighth grade who play annually, however their ranks are rising.

“We see a rise in all-girls groups that roll in and play as a crew,” Broersma mentioned.

Tryouts at Redondo Union have been held on a blistering afternoon. Most of the hopefuls performed flag soccer throughout bodily training class in center college and hoped to attain a spot on the highschool’s second-ever crew.

Regardless of the competitors, the ladies cheered one another on as they dodged via cones and spun by defenders making an attempt to tug the flags. They applauded the quickest sprinter — a soccer participant who determined to strive one thing new.

The novelty is what drove 17-year-old Aly Younger to the game after she beforehand competed in soccer and observe. Younger had at all times liked soccer however didn’t exit for the deal with crew, fearing she’d be injured. Then, she discovered flag.

“It’s a enjoyable atmosphere, it’s tremendous aggressive,” she mentioned.

In recent times, dad and mom and well being specialists have raised considerations concerning the danger of head accidents from deal with soccer, significantly amongst creating kids, with some suggesting youthful children can be safer sticking with flag. A Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention examine from final yr, for one, discovered children enjoying deal with soccer had 15 instances as many head impacts as these enjoying flag soccer.

Morin is likely one of the few women enjoying each deal with and flag. She mentioned she fell in love with soccer after coming to america from France 5 years in the past however was discouraged from initially enjoying with boys by a previous coach who’s now not on the college.

This yr, she’s a operating again on the varsity’s deal with soccer crew and a pacesetter on the ladies’ flag crew. She rallied the ladies making an attempt out for flag even once they fumbled, reassuring them with “you bought it, woman!”

She additionally advised them concerning the enjoyable they’d final season when their college received the pilot league’s championship.

“We received a variety of alternative as a result of it was by no means recognized that women play soccer,” Morin advised a newcomer whereas tossing her the ball throughout heat ups. “It was dope.”

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