In celebration of National Girls and Women in Sports Day, the Buffalo Bills are proud to share that the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) voted on Wednesday to recognize girls flag football as an official high school state championship sport starting in the spring of 2024.
"With the support of the NFL, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association has provided thousands of student-athletes with the ability to play girls flag football," NYSPHSAA Executive Director Dr. Robert Zayas said. "In less than one year, the number of schools playing girls flag has nearly tripled in our state. Providing participation opportunities for students continues to be one of our top priorities."
The first pilot season of High School Girls Flag Football took place in the spring of 2022 throughout New York State as a result of a collaboration between the Bills, New York Giants, New York Jets, Nike, and NYSPHSAA.
51 high schools throughout New York State formed girls flag teams to compete during the 2022 pilot season, allowing for the formation of a girls flag football committee at the state level and the designation of girls flag as an emerging high school sport for the 2023 season. 20 of those 51 schools reside in the Buffalo and Rochester regions (Section V and Section VI).
In 2023, the number of schools participating in High School Girls Flag Football is anticipated to be over 140 schools with 50 of those schools coming from Section V and Section VI in the Western New York region.
In 2022, the Buffalo Bills Foundation and the NFL Foundation distributed $60,000 worth of grant funding to the 20 participating schools as well as flag belts, footballs, and the opportunity to participate in a pre-season clinic and scrimmages inside the Bills ADPRO Sports Training Center. The event was hosted in partnership with staff from the NFL Flag/RCX Sports organization and included appearances from Bills linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, defensive back Siran Neal, and left tackle and Walter Payton Man of the Year Award nominee Dion Dawkins. In addition, all of the participating schools had the opportunity to receive jerseys that were donated by Nike through a partnership with NYSPHSAA.
The first year of girls flag football was celebrated throughout the summer of 2022. The first year included a visit to the Bills training camp at St. John Fisher University for Section V girls flag players, Section VI girls flag players were invited to the Bills Return of the Blue and Red open practice at Highmark Stadium, and a girls flag scrimmage (Section VI vs. Section V) at halftime of the Bills annual Kids Day preseason game against the Denver Broncos.
In support of the upcoming spring season, the Buffalo Bills Foundation and NFL Foundation will once again be providing $60,000 worth of grant funding to support schools in Section V and Section VI that are forming girls flag teams and will again host a clinic and scrimmages at the Bills facilities in April of 2023. In addition, all interested schools will again receive flag belts and footballs from the Bills.
"The announcement of girls high school flag football receiving state championship status and the growth of the program in just one year is incredible," said Preston Teague, Buffalo Bills Sr. Director of Youth Football and Programs. "We are very excited to help provide this opportunity to student athletes in our community. The support from NYSPHSAA, Section V, Section VI, Nike, the NFL Foundation, and the athletic departments at all of the participating schools has been outstanding and the collaboration between the Giants, Jets, and Bills to make this opportunity a reality is something that we are very proud of."