Sports

Southern Section approves addition of girls’ flag football

A few minutes before the CIF Southern Section council meeting in Long Beach on Thursday, president-elect Paula Rodas crossed both her fingers and smiled.

Since last November, Rodas, formerly the principal of Lawndale High, has been working with representatives from the Los Angeles Rams and Chargers on a proposal to establish girls’ flag football as a CIF Southern Section-approved sport. The night before the Southern Section would vote to pass the proposal, Rodas was so nervous she could hardly sleep, she said.

“I grew up in the wave of Title IX being a thing, but there was still lots of things — we were told, kids my age, ‘You can’t do that because you’re a girl,’” Rodas said. “Doors were closed for us.”

Southern Section representatives voted to pass the proposal, Rodas smiling at the council’s podium and claps erupting across the room. The section’s approval means the proposal will be put on the state agenda to be read at a meeting Oct. 7.

“This is history in the making, this is access, this is hope,” said Johnathan Franklin, the Rams’ director of social justice and football development, who was present and worked with Rodas on the proposal.

Once read at that meeting, Southern Section Commissioner Rob Wigod told The Times, it will be voted on at a subsequent state council meeting in February. If approved then, Wigod said, the sport will officially be implemented next fall.

The motion passed Thursday with a vote of 61-26, with two members abstaining.

According to National Federation of State High School Assns. surveys, the number of girls participating in high school flag football nationwide has increased from 11,209 in 2018-19 to 15,716 in 2021-22. Additionally, 15 colleges across the country offer girls’ flag football as a sport.

“A lot of schools have questioned this, because it’s something new,” Wigod said, “but I do believe there’s a lot of support for it.”

Originally, Rodas said, they’d brought the proposal to the Southern Section as a spring sport, primarily because of potential field availability. After discussing with other sections across the state, they ratified the proposal as a fall sport, citing the higher number of sports offered for girls in the spring that might limit availability for flag football.

That became a hot topic at the council meeting, with a Miramonte League representative proposing an amendment to the proposal, suggesting the sport be held in the spring instead.

Ultimately, an amendment to propose flag football as a spring sport was denied, in part because of the girls’ lacrosse season at that time.

Baseline equipment costs to start a program would total about $2,000, Rodas said. Franklin said the Rams, co-sponsors of the Los Angeles League of Champions girls’ flag football league, will explore ways to help teams interested with funding if the proposal is passed at the state level.

“I feel pretty hopeful,” Rodas said.

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