First step for girls’ flag football in Pennsylvania gets unanimous nod by PIAA board of directors

No more powderpuff football?




The deal for girls could be real, according to the statewide governing body in Pennsylvania that oversees the organization of high school sports. The PIAA, Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association, Inc., released a statement Wednesday that at its monthly board meeting, the board of directors unanimously approved 30-0 the first reading of sanctioning the sport in the commonwealth.


Behind the push is three years of sharing resources with female student-athletes coming from the Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers and the National Football League. Girls’ flag football also was approved in July 2023 as an official sport for the 2028 Los Angeles Olympic Games.


The Big 33 Classic, additionally, shared its news that at this year’s Memorial Day football event, showcasing the best of the best, girls will be players, too. The Eagles, Steelers, and NFL have provided resources to help this shift in football’s culture.


The organizations have helped to “jump start programs at 103 schools, 65 schools from the eastern side of the state and 36 from the western side of the state,” according to the PIAA.


“We are very appreciative of the Board of Directors support and taking this first step to sanctioning girls’ flag football,” Frank Majikes, PIAA President, said in a statement. “We have a lot of work to do, but with the support of the Eagles, Steelers and the NFL, we’re hopeful of creating a solid foundation for girls’ flag football that will develop the sport for years to come.”


According to the National Federation of High School Associations, nine states have sanctioned girls’ flag football.


“The popularity of flag football – for boys and girls – has been growing at the youth levels for the past 10 years. In 2023, about 500,000 girls ages 6-17 played flag football – a 63 percent increase since 2019,” Dr. Karissa L. Niehoff, NFHS President, said in a statement. “Even more growth, the sport was approved by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in October 2023 and will be an official Olympic Sport played in the Olympic Games in Los Angeles 2028.”


As for the Big 33, the Pennsylvania Scholastic Football Coaches Association approved the first girls’ Flag Football tournament as part of the 67th Big 33 Football Classic.


According to the NFL, “High school-age girls Flag teams representing the Baltimore Ravens, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Steelers and Washington Commanders will compete in the first-ever girls Flag Football Big 33 Championship. Each of the four NFL clubs will nominate one team consisting of 20 high school female players and multiple high school coaches to represent their NFL markets. All the girls Flag Football games throughout the weekend are free and open to the public.”


“The Big 33 Football Classic has a rich history that impacts many NFL players and Legends,” said Bobby Taylor, NFL legend and global flag ambassador. “Having the PSFCA approve girls flag football to play in the Classic for the first time is a major milestone for the sport. The club level participants from the Pennsylvania and Maryland regions demonstrate how important the growth of the sport is to the NFL. We are extremely excited.”


The inaugural PSFCA Big 33 Girls Flag Football Tournament will begin play on Saturday, May 25, at Cumberland Valley High School’s Eagle View Middle School in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. All teams will compete in a two-day round robin tournament, with the championship game taking place on Sunday, May 26, prior to the 67th Big 33 Football Classic game.


“The PSFCA Big 33 is very excited to partner with the NFL to bring you the first Big 33 High School Girls Flag Football Tournament,” said Garry Cathell, executive director of the Big 33. “The tournament is the beginning of what will be the catalyst for the states of Pennsylvania and Maryland to have girls Flag as a sanctioned sport. I would like to thank all the representatives from the NFL and the clubs for making this event happen.”

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