It was definitely one of Florida’s best-kept secrets until today, just five days out from Super Bowl LV which is taking place at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, that features the hometown Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the Kansas City Chiefs.
That secret was the fact that both Robinson and Alonso, who each have won multiple girls flag football state championships in recent years, including the most recent state championships won in 2019 in both Classes 1A & 2A respectively (the COVID-19 pandemic canceled last year’s state championship games), getting the spotlight in a new-one minute Nike advertisement that kicks off the Stronger Than One Series as part of Nike and NFL’s new partnership to grow Girls Flag Football in the United States.
1 million more boys than girls get to play sports in HS.
Because they have football.
Nike and the @NFL pledge $5 million to the pursuit of Women’s Flag as a national varsity sport.
— Nike Football (@usnikefootball) February 2, 2021
According to a press release from the NFL Communications department earlier on Tuesday, both Nike and NFL are “Collaborating to inspire the next generation of female athletes, Nike and the NFL announced a new grant initiative that commits a total of $5 million in product to growing flag football within high school athletics.”
This multi-year initiative will provide a one-time donation of up to $100,000 in product to state athletic associations that offer girls flag football as a high school sport or demonstrate progress by way of a pilot program beginning in 2021.
As such, the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) and the state of Florida are the first to receive the grant which has been the gold-standard in girls flag football since the late 1990s when it started off as a club sport before gaining recognized status in the 2002-2003 school year. In the 2016-2017 school year, the sport was granted sanctioned status, the highest level of status a sport can have through the FHSAA.
Proud to be part of a movement!
— Alonso Ravens Flag Football (@RavensFlagFB) February 2, 2021
The product received in the one-time donation will include flag football uniforms, socks, and accessories such as sports bras, all of which will be distributed to each participating state’s governing interscholastic or athletic association at their discretion. At present, only six states sanction high school flag football for girls (Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, and New York), but financial support may help remove operational barriers so more states can introduce girls’ flag football programs.
“The expansion of girls flag football is essential to the growth of the game and preservation of the values it has contributed to society for decades,” said Troy Vincent, NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations. “Girls flag demonstrates that football is for all, and the greater the participation, the stronger the game, and the more young women can build the transferrable skills football provides for achieving success in life.”
A little over 18 months ago, I was standing in my driveway talking to you for the first time. You said the goal was to get it in every state and you wanted us and @RavensFlagFB to help push it that way. Amazing opportunity. Thank you for what you do and how you do it!
— RobinsonFlagFootball (@RobinsonFlag) February 2, 2021
In addition to the grant initiative, Nike is evolving its 11-Online football training series to include a learning track specifically for flag football athletes. It will feature how-to drills with comprehensive training instruction, including team-building and leadership development. In addition, Nike’s Stronger Than One Series will launch a film focused on highlighting women and young girls who are blazing paths forward in football.
Women Featured in Stronger Than One Series:
- Cristi Bartlett (Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach, Tennessee Titans)
- Cynthia Frelund (Lead Analytics Analyst, NFL Network)
- Maral Javadifar (Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach, Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
- Darcie Glazer Kassewitz (Co-Owner, Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
- Jennifer King (Assistant Running Backs Coach, Washington Football Team)
- Lori Locust (Assistant Defensive Line Coach, Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
- Chelsea Romero (Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach, Los Angeles Rams)
- Katie Sowers (Former Offensive Assistant, San Francisco 49ers)
- Colleen Wolfe (Host, NFL Network)
- Emily Zaler (Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach, Denver Broncos)
All of this comes on the heels of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics will debut Girls Flag Football as a collegiate scholarship sport with a dozen member schools partaking in the inaugural season this spring. More schools are expected to add the sport in the next several years across the NAIA membership while a push for it to become a collegiate scholarship sport in the NCAA ranks continues to take place where flag football is only a club sport at select schools with NCAA membership currently.
Nearly 300 schools will field girls flag football teams in Florida for the 2021 season with future growth in the sport expected to come in 2022 when several more new schools that will be opening up will add the sport as well as possible expansion to areas of the state where schools currently do not field a flag football program at all.
Stay tuned to FloridaHSFootball.com for more coverage on Girls Flag Football for the 2021 season over the next month as we approach the start of the season on March 1.