We push our girls to challenge themselves in every way possible including sport. We know that sports help girls develop skills for the classroom, workplace and life. The confidence, work ethic, leadership skills gained from sport have proven benefits for women far beyond the field of play.  

Needless to say, we support school-age girls in sport. Because of this, we’re equally excited by opportunities that arise for young women in collegiate athletics.

This past June, the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), National Football League (NFL), and our partners at Reigning Champs Experiences (RCX) collaborated to make women’s flag football an official collegiate sport. 

The NFL reports to CNN that fifteen schools plan to start women’s flag football teams. They will begin competing in Spring 2021. There will be scholarship opportunities for players at those institutions. 

“This is an example of what the next 100 years of football can look like,” NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent tells CNN. “Women leading the efforts, not just as fans, not just as moms supporting their boys. Now, young ladies could actually compete and earn a scholarship like they have seen their brothers and their fathers do for so many years.”

Over the past few decades, participation among girls in organized flag football at younger ages has increased significantly. An unprecedented number of high school girls switch from other sports to flag football. Therefore, the opportunity to pursue the sport collegiately gives women the chance to take the love of flag football to a whole new level. 

Toni Harris is a defensive back for NAIA school Central Methodist University in Fayetteville, Missouri. In 2019, Harris became the first woman to receive a football scholarship to play a skill position at a collegiate level. She believes that this development offers young women a lot of new opportunity, and we agree. 

Harris tells CNN, “I think…the future of football is female. Not only is this [decision by NAIA] opening doors for girls to compete at the collegiate level, it’s opening up more doors for maybe the NFL to start a WNFL one day.” Harris and others believe that the establishment of women’s flag football as an official collegiate sport is a big step toward gender equality and equity in sport. 

Many great barriers still stand in the way of a perfectly level playing field. The NAIA is a much smaller governing body of collegiate athletics than the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). Because of this, women who wish to play flag football collegiately will be limited in their choice of programs. Furthermore, media attention and money dedicated to women’s sports continue to severely lag that given to men.

Nonetheless, this remains a major milestone in the fight for equality. This development breaks barriers. We are optimistic that this move signals more exciting opportunities for women in sport.