Flag, You're It!

The Problem

I started a flag football program for in my community for girls my age to try to eliminate behavior problems such as fighting and bullying at school. I had been noticing a general feeling of being unhappy in some of my friends at school. I was also noticing a lot of arguing, name calling, bullying and sometimes even fighting among some of the girls. In our very rural area, we did not have a lot of outside activities to keep us occupied in or out of school. We had the school's sponsored programs such as basketball and cheerleading. However that only included a limited few, not all of us. I had really noticed how some of the girls that did not make the varsity teams had become very mean spirited to the point of being bullies to those who did make the team. There were also incidents of vandalism on some of the facilities used by the school. All of this unrest was going to make for a very difficult and long school year. As a member of various athletic teams over the past few years, I have heard my coaches and leaders talk about team building and how it teaches life lessons even more than sports. I tried to think of various 'team' efforts we could try. Our school was not able to sponsor any more extra curricular activities as their budget for this year was already set. This problem led me to contact some people I know who help lead a local recreation football league who already had a boys full tackle football league up and running. As I asked their leaders about programs for girls ages 11-14, they also said that they were limited in what they provided for that age group. They had actually attempted to cut back on this age group of girls due to the behavioral problems they had encountered. However, they advised me to check into various team sports and they agreed to help me if needed. Since I had football on my mind, I started researching football and discovered flag football. We had played flag football during our gym time at school, and we had a really good time, but that was only a couple of days a year. So I began to ask my friends about playing to see if anyone was interested. Some were slow to respond at first thinking they would have to pad up in shoulder pads and helmets and tackle each other! As I gathered a few girls to agree to play, we went together to talk to others until we had about 20 girls who agreed to play. We approached one of our moms and talked her into volunteering to coach us. She and her friend agreed to help us out, even though they did not know about football either. At that point, I went back to the local recreation football league to see if we would be allowed to use their field. They really got on board with our project and helped me find resources to get started. We raised about $450.00 to get us started. We researched and found that the NFL sponsors flag football at the community level and with our money raised we were able to get flags and T-shirts. The local rec league allowed us to use their referees and facilities free of charge. The best thing about it is that we all played, we were all equals on the football field. Every game day, we picked teams all over again, so that no one team was stacked against the other. We really did have to put forth team building and organizational skills every game day. We even recruited our moms to play a scrimmage game against us! Hopefully, as football season is about to start again, our program can continue and will be open to all girls in my community.

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