Girls’ high school flag football in Alabama is set to begin its inaugural season this fall.
Nearly 50 years after Title IX opened doors for women in sports, high school girls in Alabama can now play its own brand of football.
That’s right. As of September 1st, 44 Alabama high schools are planning to field a team in this pilot program.
This was possible thanks to a partnership between the Atlanta Falcons, NFL FLAG and the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA). This year flag football is a pilot program with hopes of becoming a sanctioned AHSAA sport in the future.
What can fans expect? First off, no helmets or pads, no tackling (you grab the ball carrier’s flag), the game is 7 vs. 7, and the games last about an hour. Learn all about the sport, including the rules, at the AHSAA Flag Football homepage.
Coaching Football – “that’s me”
When Spain Park’s Carmen Starr learned AHSAA was introducing Girls’ Flag Football as a sport at the Spring Principal/Athletic Director Conference, she turned to her athletic director and said, “I want to coach this. That’s me. It’s got my name all over it.”
Even though this is her first year coaching, Starr is no stranger to high school athletics. For the past 14 years she has worked at Spain Park as an athletic assistant making sure up to 800 student-athletes are eligible and in compliance with state guidelines. Her husband Robert has led the Spain Park Girls’ Soccer Program since its inception in 2002.
Like many Alabamians, she loves football.
“I am a football enthusiast,” she declared. “I’ve lived and breathed it pretty much my whole life. When I grew up in the ‘70s, all I really ever wanted to do was play football.”
The person who instilled her passion for the game? Her grandmother.
“I actually really got my love of football from my grandmother. She took us to Birmingham Stallions games, the Hall of Fame and All American Bowl games, She was a huge Alabama fan.”
The Spain Park Team
Spain Park, like all the other high schools across the state, has pulled together its team in a matter of weeks. They have 16 players ready to play 7 vs. 7 flag football. The team is young, with only two seniors. There are a number of multi-sport players on the team including basketball and soccer players.
A Green Bay Packers fan, Coach Starr says one of her favorite sayings comes from Coach Vince Lombardi:
“We would accomplish many more things if we did not think of them as impossible.”
“That’s the mindset I want to instill in these girls, making them understand everything is possible. They don’t have to hear the words, ‘you can’t do this.’”.
Starr sees flag football as another avenue and opportunity for sports to have a positive impact on a young person’s life.
“I think playing a sport, and being involved in a team, being a friend and a teammate and working together and seeing success in adversity, builds character. The confidence it can instill goes a long, long way.”
Central-Phenix City High School Gets Early Start
World History teacher and Central-Phenix City High School Flag Football Coach Emily Barrs actually started forming the school’s girls’ flag football team earlier than the AHSAA announcement sanctioning the sport back in April.
“We had tryouts in the spring, so we started a little early before AHSAA announced. We were going to have it as a club sport.”
Barrs told us nearly 50 girls participated in the try-out. They whittled the number of players to 21 on the roster.
Central’s first game is in early October. There are plenty of teams to play. In Alabama, Central is scheduling games with Smiths Station which is only ten miles away, Auburn, Eufaula, Opelika, Russell County and even Dothan. They are also going to play a number of Georgia teams, especially schools in Columbus.
Getting ready for their inaugural season has been an awesome experience, according to Barrs.
“My girls love flag football. They’re really excited just to even have this opportunity, because usually the only time they even get to do this is if maybe when we have a powderpuff game during homecoming week. So they’re happy to have a whole season dedicated just to them playing the sport.”
Legacy of Title IX
The addition of Girls’ Flag Football this year is especially meaningful to Coach Barrs and Coach Starr. Title IX, the landmark law that removed barriers to women’s sports and discrimination, turns 50 in 2022. Sanctioning a new sport like flag football reminds us all how far we’ve come.
“Without Title IX, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to play sports growing up,” said Barrs. “I wouldn’t have been able to go to college and play softball, like these girls today. Thanks to Title IX, they are able to play flag football and receive the same stuff that the guys get from normal football.”
Coach Starr added: “Great progress has been made. They’re not being told that they can’t do something.”
List of Alabama Teams playing the 2021 Fall Season
Who is playing this fall?
Auburn High School, Central-Phenix City High School, Central-Tuscaloosa High School, Clay-Chalkville High School, Dothan High School, Eufaula High School, Fairfield High School, Fultondale High School, Gardendale High School, Greensboro High School, Helena High School
Hewitt Trussville High School, Hillcrest High School, Homewood High School, Hoover High School, Hueytown High School, Huffman High School, Huntsville High School, John Carroll Catholic High School, Leeds High School, Loachapoka High School, Northside High School, Oak Mountain High School, Opelika High School, Oxford High School, Parker High School, Paul Bryant High School
J.B. Pennington High School, Ramsay High School, Russell County High School, Sipsey Valley High School, Smiths Station High School, Southeastern High School, Spain Park High School, Sparkman High School, Tarrant High School, Thompson High School, Tuscaloosa County High School, Vestavia Hills High School, Wenonah High School
Watch a Game in Your Area
Games begin in late September and early October. Support your community. Support Girls’ Flag Football.
Central High School’s Coach Barrs summed up the excitement around flag football and high school athletics.
“This is a super big deal. Everybody in the community is so excited, all the way up to our school board, our superintendent, our athletic director, just random people in the community —go out there and watch our girls play.”
Are you going to watch a Girls’ High School Flag Football game this season? Share your experience on Bham Now and The Bama Buzz by tagging us on social media @Bhamnow or @TheBhamBuzz