Girls flag football won’t be sanctioned next school year

A vote by WIAA assembly members narrowly failed, meaning it will remain a club sport for 2024-25.

Girls flag football will not become an officially sanctioned high school sport in Washington during the 2024-25 school year, narrowly failing a vote by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.

The amendment failed (26 in favor, 27 opposed) in the WIAA’s representative assembly, which is comprised of school administrators from around Washington state.

The amendment needed a 60% approval to pass.

“Obviously, disappointment,” said Tacoma Public Schools athletic director James Neil, who brought forth the amendment. “Very disappointed.”

Neil, reached by phone at the Seattle Seahawks’ practice site, the Virginia Mason Athletic Center, was watching about 50 girls flag football players from the Seattle-Tacoma area playing on the Seahawks’ field. They were hoping to celebrate Monday.

“There was a hope we might get to announce it to them,” he said. “Just disappointment. We’re trying to set up a better system for them.”

Around 225 girls from Tacoma Public Schools participated in flag football last winter at Lincoln, Stadium, Mount Tahoma, Silas and Foss.

For now, girls flag football will continue as a club sport. The sport has picked up in popularity and has been supported by the NFL and locally by the Seahawks. Several schools in the South Sound fielded girls flag football teams last winter.

The main argument against passing the amendment was concern from schools east of the mountains about which season they’d play in. While it’s a viable winter sport on the west side, freezing temps and snow on the state’s east side make it more difficult to play in the winter.

That means flag football would need to be offered in the fall or spring, which are already busy times for high school programs with high demand for field usage. It also means girls who played flag football may be pulled away from other sports.

“If you’re on the east side, you’re not doing it in winter,” Neil said. “Then it’s, ‘(which sports) are you cannibalizing?’”

Schools are not required to offer sports even if they’re sanctioned by the WIAA, though. Tacoma Public Schools, for example, doesn’t offer gymnastics or slowpitch softball. Some schools districts around the state without pools don’t offer swim and dive programs.

Amendments to add girls badminton and Esports (competitive video games) also failed.

Neil remains hopeful the participation will increase east of the mountains and the sport will be added in the near future.

“I’m optimistic for next year,” he said. “I just have to talk with (WIAA executive director) Mick Hoffman, see what he thinks. The WIAA really wants it. We just couldn’t get a majority vote.”

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