On Girls High School Flag Football

Over the past week or so, there’s been a lot of chatter back and forth on the Web concerning a New York Times story about the popularity of flag football for girls in Florida high schools. On the one hand, you have a number of folks from the women’s sports establishment who can’t seem to make up their mind whether or not this is a good thing:

“No one is saying flag football isn’t a great sport to play,” said Neena Chaudhry, the senior counsel at the National Women’s Law Center, which has brought several cases against high schools alleging violations of Title IX, the federal law mandating gender equity in education. “But I do think it’s relevant to ask questions about whether girls are getting the same kind of educational opportunities as boys.”

And then, in a letter to the editor a few days later, Nancy Hogshead-Makar of the Women’s Sports Foundation wrote:

For more than 10 years, flag football players have lost out on $1.5 billion annually in college scholarships and the abundant educational and economic benefits that research confirms flows from the competitive nature of varsity sports.

After talking with CSC chairman Eric Pearson about this, we were both shaking our heads. Both of us believe that Chaudhry and Hogshead-Makar have it backwards. After all, the vast majority of the millions of high school students, male and female, who participate in interscholastic sports will never have a chance to win a scholarship or even participate in intercollegiate competition.

Instead of fretting about establishing a glidepath for scholarships, we ought to be cheering that over 5,000 high school girls nationwide are playing, and apparently loving, flag football. Many of the benefits of participating in athletics — learning about teamwork and sacrificing personal goals in pursuit of common objectives — have nothing to do with winning scholarships.

And, oh yeah, having fun. If you listen to any of the current or former players quoted in the article, it’s all too clear that these young women are having a great time:

Demi Cissell, a linebacker for Jupiter High School and a former cheerleader, said she never considered herself an athlete until she played flag football.

“I tried it out, and I just loved it,” she said. Her team won the state championship last year. Girls, she said, “like to do what the guys do, because all the guys say girls can’t play our sport.”

She added, “And even though it’s not tackle, it’s still pretty close.”

Why couldn’t the NYT talk to more actual athletes like Demi, instead of spending time with activists? Kind of put things into perspective as to who is actually pushing this story, eh?

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