July 22, 2024
Illinois High School Sports

Here’s what to know on the IHSA sanctioning girls flag football

Move comes after sports’ exponential growth

The Chicago Bears host the high cchool girls flag football state championship last fall at Halas Hall. The IHSA announced Wednesday that girls flag football will become a sanctioned sport. Photo courtesy of the Chicago Bears and Chicago Public Schools Athletic Administration.

The IHSA announced Wednesday the addition of girls flag football as a sanctioned sport. The move comes after the sport has experienced exponential growth in the state the past few years.

Here’s what fans need to know about the newest sport.

When will it start?

Girls flag football is set to start during the 2024-25 school year, with state finals taking place Oct. 11-12. The announcement came Wednesday after the IHSA board of directors approved the sanctioning at its Feb. 4 meeting.

The sport joins a list of recently added sports – girls wrestling (2022), Esports (2022), boys and girls lacrosse (2018) and competitive dance (2013) – which conducted their first state series over the past decade.

“The addition of girls flag football furthers the IHSA mission of creating participation opportunities for high school students in Illinois,” IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said in a news release. “The sport has experienced significant growth in a short amount of time, and our member schools are excited to see it become an IHSA sport. The Chicago Public Schools Athletic Administration and the Chicago Bears both deserve significant praise for their grassroots efforts in shepherding and supporting the growth of girls flag football in Illinois.”

How new is the sport?

Wednesday’s move comes after teams started forming in 2021.

The Chicago Public League held an inaugural postseason tournament in 2021 before partnering with the Bears to hold a state championship event at Halas Hall in 2022 and 2023. The league expanded to more than 50 teams in 2022, according to the CPL, and more than 100 teams in 2023.

Lane Tech defeated Phillips in the fall to win the second Chicago Bears state series this past fall. Glenbrook North, Guilford, Lane, Phillips, Proviso East, Resurrection, Stevenson, Stagg and Willowbrook each advanced to the state series last season.

Back of the Yards won the title in 2021, and Willowbrook captured the title in 2022.

“By providing opportunities for talented girls and women, we will be able to follow some of the world’s best athletes competing on local, national and international platforms, leading to the 2028 Summer Olympics,” Bears President and CEO Kevin Warren said. “The Chicago Bears remain committed to aggressively championing the growth of girls flag football. This is the beginning, but access and equity begin with these historical first moments that make the Chicago Bears, and me personally, inspired for the future of girls flag football for generations to come.”

How many teams will there be to start?

The sport’s first season will feature plenty of teams. The IHSA said more than 100 teams have committed to the first year, and almost 40 more teams expressed interest for 2025.

The IHSA girls flag football advisory committee will finalize the rule book and structure of the state series at upcoming meetings, according to the IHSA. Individuals interested in becoming officials can begin licensing May 1.

The IHSA also will create a request for proposals in order to find sites interested in hosting the state finals at an upcoming board meeting.

“There is a lot of work to be done before we crown the first IHSA girls flag football state champion,” IHSA Assistant Executive Director Tracie Henry said. “We have a group of people who are dedicated to seeing the sport flourish and putting on a first-class state tournament.”

Michal Dwojak

Michal Dwojak

Michal is a sports enterprise reporter for Shaw Local, covering the CCL/ESCC for Friday Night Drive and other prep sports for the Northwest Herald. He also is a Chicago Bears contributing writer. He previously was the sports editor for the Glenview Lantern, Northbook Tower and Malibu Surfside News.