PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Statistically, the sport of football is declining in terms of boys’ participation, but for girls? It’s the exact opposite.
“I just think it brings a lot of diversity to a sport that’s primarily male-dominated, and I think it’s just a time for girls to shine in girls sports,” said South Salem’s Sadie Paterson.
This past weekend was the inaugural high school girls’ flag football championship in Oregon, with Banks winning it all.
Astoria, Banks, Riverdale, Scappoose, Seaside, Tillamook, South Salem and West Salem picked up the sport this season. It’s been fulfilling for the athletes and coaches alike.
“I’ve coached football at all levels, and it’s been a lot of fun to teach high school kids how to play football for the first time,” said Riverdale coach and principal Bart Hawkins. “They come with a lot of skills already. It’s just been really interesting.”
Nike is a huge leader in growing the sport.
They teamed up with the NFL two years ago to offer up to $100,000 in products to each state athletic organization that began a girl’s high school flag football program. Multiple people around the event this past weekend said that grant was pivotal to getting this all started.
Once 25 schools have programs, it can be deemed an emerging sport by the OSAA, and they can step in as a sanctioning body.
With several schools already reaching out wanting to start programs next year, the momentum is palpable.
“A lot of head football coaches as athletic directors were super excited to offer this opportunity for girls. You’ll see a lot of them on the sidelines coaching today,” said OSAA Assistant Executive Director Kelly Foster. “We also have a lot of strong wrestling programs at this classification, at this size school and looking for a great opportunity for their girl’s wrestlers to have a team sport to do in the spring as well.”
At the very least, it’s offering a different outlet for these high schoolers, and that’s thrilling for all parties involved.
“So many people have come up to me and been like, ‘God, I wish that this started years ago,’” said Rebecca Brisson, who helped spearhead the program. “A lot of the moms or adult women are like, ‘God, I wish I had this 20 years ago when I was in high school.’”