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Flag football gains popularity among Anchorage high school girls

Alaska Dispatch

High school girls flag football has taken off in Alaska’s largest city. ESPN W reports on the popular sport only six years since its inception in Anchorage. 

Nikki Kennedy, a senior for the Chugiak varsity team, tells ESPN W: “I grew up playing catch with my dad and the fact that I get to do that in an actual game is an amazing experience. I quit volleyball for this and I was pretty good at that. But I love this more."

Alaska and Florida are the only states to sanction girls high-school football. Florida plays statewide and holds state championships. In Anchorage, eight teams compete within the Anchorage Sports Athletic Association for a league title.

There is no college-level flag football for women. But some think that takes the pressure off scholarships and makes the sport even more care-free and fun. "They aren't worried about [scholarships], they are playing for fun," Bartlett coach Stephen Stansbury told ESPN W.

The sport started in Anchorage schools in the wake Title IX – the federal law passed in 1972 that requires gender equity for boys and girls in federally funded schools. The Anchorage high school athletic association was searching for more opportunities for girls’ sports.

A task force was formed, and they conducted a survey with female student-athletes to determine their most preferred sports. Lacrosse came in first, but due to the cost of training and equipment, the task force decided against it. In second place was snowboarding, but transportation and weather issues made that sport unfeasible. In third place was flag football.

League officials spent $150,000 trying out the sport, hoping that 300 girls would participate during the first three years. But the sport got more than that in the first season alone.

These days in Anchorage, some 800 girls participate in eight flag football programs at the varsity, JV and C levels under the auspicies of the Anchorage Sports Athletic Association.

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