IHSA Announces Inaugural Girls Flag Football Illinois State Championship for 2024

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Lake Forest, IL – Illinois High School Association (IHSA) announced on Wednesday the official sanctioning of Girls Flag Football as an IHSA sport, starting in the 2024-25 school year. 

This groundbreaking decision includes hosting the inaugural IHSA Girls Flag Football State Championship in fall 2024. The historic announcement was made at the PNC Center at Halas Hall, home of the Chicago Bears.

“The addition of Girls Flag Football furthers the IHSA mission of creating participation opportunities for high school students in Illinois,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. “The sport has experienced significant growth in a short amount of time, and our member schools are excited to see it become an IHSA sport. The Chicago Public Schools Athletic Administration and the Chicago Bears both deserve significant praise for their grassroots efforts in shepherding and supporting the growth of girls flag football in Illinois.”

According to IHSA, the event, celebrated by media, coaches, players, and other key supporters, marked a significant milestone in advancing high school sports in Illinois. The Chicago Bears have been instrumental in this development, having initiated the girls flag football program in 2021 and hosting the state championships for two consecutive years, in partnership with Gatorade, Buffalo Wild Wings, Nike, and Visa.

“The official sanctioning of girls’ flag football in the State of Illinois is exciting news. Next year, we will witness a state championship in the sport. By providing opportunities for talented girls and women, we will be able to follow some of the world’s best athletes competing on local, national and international platforms, leading to the 2028 Summer Olympics,” said Chicago Bears President & CEO Kevin Warren. “The Chicago Bears remain committed to aggressively championing the growth of girls’ flag football.  This is the beginning, but access and equity begin with these historical first moments that make the Chicago Bears, and me personally, inspired for the future of girls’ flag football for generations to come.”

The growth of the sport has been remarkable. In its inaugural season, the program featured 22 teams from the Chicago Public Schools district. By 2023, the participation expanded to over 100 teams statewide. Last year’s state tournament saw nine teams from eight different leagues compete, including Glenbrook South, Guilford, Lane Tech, Phillips, Proviso East, Resurrection College Prep, Stagg, Stevenson, and Willowbrook.

Illinois joins a select group of states, including Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, and New York, that have officially sanctioned high school flag football for girls. This expansion reflects a growing trend seen in states like Alabama, Georgia, Florida, California, and Nevada, emphasizing the increasing popularity and recognition of girls’ flag football nationwide.

“There is a lot of work to done before we crown the first IHSA Girls Flag Football State Champion,” said IHSA Assistant Executive Director Tracie Henry, who will serve as the IHSA Girls Flag Football administrator.  “We have a group of people who are dedicated to seeing the sport flourish and putting on a first-class state tournament. One area where we know we will need help is with officiating. We hope we can recruit some new officials to the sport, while also having current IHSA officials in other sports, including 11-player and 8-player football, add licenses to referee girls flag football as well.”

Individuals interested in becoming IHSA Girls Flag Football officials can begin licensing on May 1, 2024. The inaugural IHSA Girls Flag Football State Finals will take place on Friday and Saturday, October 11-12, 2024.

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