Girls flag football: First season as AIA sanctioned sport


Julia Carvalho

Sophomore Elizabeth Franklin pulls junior Peyton Tanghe’s flag during practice. After becoming an AIA sanctioned sport, the girls flag football team is practicing more regularly to prepare themselves for the upcoming season.

As of Dec. 12, girls flag football was approved as a sanctioned sport by the Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) Executive Board, making the state only one of six to do so. The state-wide recognition the sport has received is helping the program to grow rapidly, with more and more girls expressing their interest and desire to become involved. 

Junior Sammi Cocke has been involved in flag football since seventh grade after growing up playing with her brothers. She shared that moving to Arizona allowed her to have more opportunities to play and she is amazed that the state’s advanced recognition of the game as an official sport has brought so much new interest. Cocke explained, “So basically, I guess a club you’re supposed to have it for like three to four years. I guess before it becomes a sport, so the fact that it’s getting to be a sport within the first year of it is crazy that that many girls want to do it.”

While the team may have only brought home two wins last season, new members and resources resulting from the AIA board’s decision have led them to feel optimistic about their upcoming games. Junior Peyton Tanghe began playing flag football last year as an off-season alternative to basketball. As a fan, she claimed she fell in love with playing the game and was awarded defensive player of the year last season. She shared, “For the next season we’re planning on trying to have more girls, more new equipment. We’re trying to add more plays to make it be like a serious team so people take us seriously.” In addition to equipment and plays, the team is also bringing varsity football coach Alec Horne on to the coaching staff and will be practicing more regularly, going from two to three practices a week to practice nearly every day. 

Coach Heather Johnson explained that as an AIA sanctioned sport the team can now play games beyond the Chandler school district this season, giving the team more opportunities to play and compete. In terms of goal setting for the upcoming season. Johnson hopes the girls will focus on “following through, not giving up, and like ‘Hey, let’s at least go 50/50 in wins and losses’ because you have those schools that are coming out strong, but like in any sport, it’s any given Sunday, any team can win, so right when you step on that field it’s get that attitude ‘I can beat this team.’ Get that fighter mentality.”

Both Johnson and Tanghe explained that they hope the sport will be taken more seriously this season, as the girls train and play the same as any other team. The team’s first game was on Mar. 7 and the season will last through the spring.