ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) –Girls high school wrestling has caught on big in Illinois, so why not girls’ football, or at least girls flag football? It is about to take off here in Rockford.
Dozens of girls in Rockford interested in playing in a new all-girls flag football league that will be starting up this fall participated in a jamboree Saturday at Sportscore Two. Eight local high schools will be fielding teams. They are the four Rockford Public High Schools Guilford, Auburn, Jefferson and East, plus Rockford Christian, Rockford Lutheran, Harlem and Freeport.
“I think it’s an awesome opportunity for our girls in this community,” said Rockford Park District general manager of youth sports Lamont Jones. “We had a lot of our ladies come through our NFL Flag Football Program where they usually age out when they get to be around 12, because the boys become so competitive, but this is going to give them an opportunity to play on an even playing field.”
The Rockford Park District is serving as a bridge to help launch the girls league. The Chicago Bears have also thrown their support behind it. It was the Bears and Bears Care that got the ball rolling by starting a girls’ league in the Chicago Public Schools last year, and that was a huge success.
“We initially had hoped to start with eight teams in Chicago, and as it turns out we started with 21 teams that competed last year,” said Bears and Bears Care spokesman Gus Silva. “We had a Chicago Public League Champion, so now we’re just building upon that growth bringing it to Rockford now.”
The Bears presented the Rockford Park District with a $65,000 check to help pay for startup costs. Bears Care has also partnered with NIKE to provide the girls with uniforms and other equipment.
“The great thing about this is it’s all free,” said Jones. “The Chicago Bears are taking care of everything for the young ladies this year.”
Rockford East football coach and athletic director Gary Griffin is very much behind the girls’ flag football league. He says he had 65 girls show up for a recent meeting about it.
“It’s awesome. We had a meeting a couple days ago, and we were overwhelmed at the kids that came down for the meeting.”
Jania Paige is one local high school student who is excited about playing flag football. “I feel like a lot of people think flag football or football in general is a boys’ sport, but I feel like any sport can be a girls’ sport.”
Rockford East High School senior-to-be Daniela Torres feels the same way. “It’s a wonderful opportunity, and I’ll be entering my senior year, so I’ll be very excited to have this my last year.”
The IHSA has also expressed an interest in sanctioning girls flag football. The sport just needs more time to take off.
One fan of girls’ flag football is Guilford graduate and current Chicago Bears assistant special teams coach Carlos Polk. He helped at the jamboree Saturday.
“I’m so excited about that (the league). The opportunity for them to come out and play the game I love, and they’re playing it just as well as anyone else.”
The Rockford league will be known as the Northern Illinois Flag Football League. The season will run from early September through mid-October this year. Girls who attend the eight local high schools that will participate should contact their athletic directors if they are interested in playing.