Sports Odds & Ends
The Minnesota Vikings have joined several NFL teams to help support girls’ flag football leagues in their team’s local areas.
Two Minneapolis middle schools, Olson and Anderson, last Saturday played their first game in the inaugural three-week Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) Girls Flag Football program. It is a continued part of the partnership between the district and the Vikings, who pledged $75,000 to create flag football leagues in 2022 and future years in hopes that eventually the sport will become a sanctioned high school varsity program in Minnesota.
Flag football is played similar to tackle football except the offensive players wear a flag belt and the defensive player must pull the flag from the player with the ball to “tackle” or stop the ball carrier. The playing field is a rectangle, usually 60-80 yards long and 20-30 yards wide, with a 10-yard end zone at each end.
The MPS teams have approximately 10 girls each, and each team got custom uniforms and equipment specifically donated by Nike and the Vikings. The games are played at Roosevelt and South High Schools on Saturdays this month. The final games will be at the Vikings’ indoor practice facility in Eagan on Saturday, May 21, 10 am-2 pm.
MPS District Athletics Director Antony Fisher said that the Vikings-MPS partnership has been a fruitful one thus far. “Together we will continue to ensure that our female middle school student-athletes have a great athletic experience with the addition of flag football to our current athletic offering,” he said in a May 2 press release.
“The NFL has made a commitment to continue to make this game, grow the sport at a grassroots level, and find a way to continue to build this inclusively of the sport,” explained Brett Taber, the Vikings vice president of social impact, last week in an MSR phone interview.
According to the NFL, flag football since 2015 has become one of the fastest-growing U.S. youth sports with a nearly 40% increase among 6-to-12-year-olds, more than 1.5 million youth. But only six states—Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada and New York—have sanctioned girls flag football as a high school sport, something the Vikings are committed to see happen some day in Minnesota as well.
“The Vikings are one of those few [NFL] teams on the forefront of trying to really push this initiative,” continued Taber. “This is a program that we’re committed to expanding, and we want to hear from school districts that are interested in making [flag football] a part of their own athletic offerings.”
He said that the Vikings have talked to St. Paul and Anoka-Hennepin school districts officials about adding flag football. “We’ve already had some great conversations with several other metro districts, but also districts in rural Minnesota areas.”
“There are some intentional ways that we want to continue to keep this more of a year-round mindset,” said Taber. “We’re hoping for a narrative that we can change with this program by creating opportunities for girls to continue playing beyond the youth years into middle school, eventually at the high school level.”
Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.