A new opportunity for girls who want a chance to get onto the gridiron will be coming to Section II and five other sections around the state next spring.
The New York State Public High School Athletic Association will be running a pilot program for a girls’ flag football season during the spring 2022 athletic season, with Section II set to be one of the six participating regions.
The season will be supported by all three regional NFL teams — the New York Giants, New York Jets and Buffalo Bills — along with corporate sponsor Nike. Each team will support the program in two of the six sections — the Giants in Sections II and IV, the Jets in Sections VIII and XI, and the Bills in Sections V and VI.
The pilot is a chance to add another girls’ sport for the spring season, where girls have relatively few options, as opposed to the crowded fall season.
“That was one of the early discussions that we had,” said NYSPHSAA Assistant Director Todd Nelson, who presented the pilot program to the association’s Central Committee at its meeting this week in Monticello. “From our association’s perspective, we feel that the girls’ opportunities in the fall are numerous — some people say we have too many offerings. If we’re going to move forward and get support from our member schools, it would definitely be a spring sport.”
The small number of girls who compete in tackle football during the fall season would not be eligible to play in the spring flag football season, Nelson said, citing NYSPHSAA rules that prohibit students from playing the same sport in two different seasons.
Nelson said the work on instituting the pilot program has gone on since preliminary meetings with representatives of the three NFL clubs in February.
“We kind of put a plan together, talked a little bit about details,” Nelson said.
After presenting the proposal to the NYSPHSAA Executive Committee in May and meeting with the executive directors of individual sections, the framework was finalized. Nelson said the full plan will be presented at NYSPHSAA’s athletic director workshops in August and September, followed by informational meetings for schools that are interested and a commitment date around the end of October.
The plan is to have at least four schools in each of the six participating sections, though Nelson said NYSPHSAA is anticipating that there will be more schools that opt into the pilot program.
“We don’t want to turn anybody away,” he said. “We don’t want to stifle the excitement of it. We’re willing to work with all the schools that are interested and are going to make a commitment to it, but our goal is to get a minimum of four schools in each one of the six sections.”
A similar program was piloted in New Jersey with the support of the Giants and Jets, as well as a pilot in New York City’s Public Schools Athletic League.
“I think this is an initiative from all NFL clubs,” Nelson said. “NFL clubs from around the country are working with their local states to try and get this program off the ground.”