‘Burst into football’: Blue Bombers get in on growing sport of girls flag football

Solape Obasa stands on a green turf field at a sports facility in Winnipeg’s south end, keeping an eye on the football, waiting for the right moment to catch it and run.

But before she could wait, the 17-year-old from Winnipeg’s Elmwood High School had to work hard just to get on the field as part of a new high school females flag football league.

“I’ve always liked the concept of girls playing flag football while boys play football. “I’ve always wondered why no girls were allowed on the team,” Obasa explained in an interview.

The teen does not consider herself a football fan, but she enjoys attempting different activities that allow her to use her athletic ability.

However, that potential was thwarted at Elmwood High, which previously had a boys tackle football group but no female football team.

Obasa and other students persuaded staff to form a girls’ flag football squad. They were told that if they could find 15 participants willing to play, they would be in.

Burst into football': Blue Bombers get in on growing sport of girls flag  football - Winnipeg | Globalnews.ca

The team quickly filled up, according to head coach Zhanna Samborski.

She cites the game’s speed, friendship, and the opportunity for ladies to “elbow (their) way into a male-dominated field” as reasons for her interest.
“We need more female presence in these settings. “Women have fought long and hard for these opportunities,” Samborski stated.
Obasa hopes that as more girls take up flag football, it will last.

“I really want the sport to go far,” she stated.

Flag football, particularly the girls’ game, has quickly progressed to become one of North America’s fastest-growing sports.

The Winnipeg Blue Bombers of the Canadian Football League established the girls’ league earlier this month.

More than 200 players from 19 teams will compete over six weeks of games.

Wade Miller, president and CEO of the Bombers, stated that they recognized a disparity in who got to play and attempted to close it.

Winnipeg Blue Bombers get in on growing sport of girls flag football

“We wanted to create this initiative to encourage more high school girls to participate in football. We intend to continue playing tackle or flag football all year,” Miller added.

The sport has been added to the Olympic schedule for the 2028 Summer Games in Los Angeles.

“No sport that has made it to the Olympics has gone from recreational to Olympic sport faster than flag football,” said Jim Mullin, president of Football Canada.

“One or two of these young women (from the Winnipeg league) could wind up on the team. It is within the scope of possibilities.”

The essence of the game, in which opponents remove a flag from a player rather than tackle him or her to create a stop, is critical to its development, according to Bill Johnson, executive director of Football Manitoba.

The fact that it doesn’t take much equipment or infrastructure to play helps a lot, especially in rural and northern Manitoba, according to Johnson.

Mike Watson, who coaches the Morris School’s girls team, adds, “It’s an excellent way to get into football.

“There are a lot of moving components in football. “If you can learn those moving pieces without fear of being hit, confidence will follow.”

Flag football has an estimated 20 million players in more than 100 nations, including Canada.

Canada’s national teams rank among the finest in the world. The women’s team won the bronze medal at last summer’s Americas Continental Flag Football Championship in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Darci Epp has returned to Winnipeg, where she began playing the game as a child.

When the opportunity to play flag football for her school in Morris arose, the 16-year-old thrilled at the chance to get back on the field, grab the ball, and hopefully inspire others.

“I am excited for the next generations of girls coming up in our school and other schools being able to see this as a new sport for them to play,” Epp said.

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