This spring, there’s a new sport taking to the field — girls flag football.
The New York State Public High School Athletic Association teamed up with the state’s NFL teams, including the Bills, to make it happen.
That means it’s practice time for a team made up of two schools: Destiny Christian and Bishop Kearney.
“It’s a lot of work but it’s fun,” said player Dominique Jones.
She's part of a group of girls that will not be sidelined.
“[It's] to encourage more girls and women to participate in sports, specifically football, a game that we all love very much,” said Preston Teague, the senior director of community relations and youth football for the Buffalo Bills.
It's an effort a few years in the making. The Bills teamed up with Nike, the Jets and Giants to help bring the sport to more than 50 schools in six sections throughout New York state.
“We know that there's thousands of girls in our community that love football and they want to play,” said Teague. "I have a number of women in my life that are athletes who would have loved an opportunity like this. One of my main goals as a part of this initiative is to provide opportunities for all those Bills fans, all those little girls.
That’s why in the fall of 2021, David Barry, the executive director of Destiny Christan School, applied for the grant.
For the past few months, he planned for this day.
“[They'll be] face to face and playing on the same field for the first time. It's gonna be great today,” said Barry as his players packed up to head to Bishop Kearney's school.
The two combined to have enough numbers.
Players like Dominique Jones are helping build this team from the ground up.
“The camaraderie, the meeting people that they'd never have a chance to meet, different grade levels, different parts of the country that they're coming in from. This is great! It's what it's all about,” said Barry.
Like anything, it takes time, but practice makes perfect.
"Kind of proud that I picked some stuff up, but I know there's some other stuff that I can work on,” said Jones.
For her, that’s worth it.
“I've always watched games, and I was like, oh, it's kind of cool," she said. "I feel like a lot of people don't talk about girls playing football, so it shows that we can also really do something and it's a fun opportunity.”
An hour in and the girls were showing off the new knowledge in their arsenal, perhaps not realizing the seed this sport planted.
“You're seeing more women coaching, you're seeing more women in scouting, you're seeing more women in leadership roles throughout the NFL," Teague noted. "That is one thing that we'd love to see as a part of this program, just to show girls all the opportunities that there are for them to have a career in football.”
Teams that will find that success, both on and off the field.
The Bills will host an event at their facilities on April 23 for participating teams in their sections.
A full list of schools participating in the new spot can be found below:
- Somers High School
- Scarsdale High School
- Lakeland High School
- Walter Panas High School
- Hastings High School
- Peekskill High School
- Greenburg-North Castle
- Binghamton High School
- Ithaca High School
- Chenango Valley High School
- Norwich High School
- Buffalo Academy of Science
- Niagara Falls High School
- Sweet Home High School
- Depew High School
- West Seneca East High School
- North Tonawanda High School
- West Seneca West High School
- Frontier High School
- Hamburg High School
- Amherst High School
- Iroquois High School
- Orchard Park High School
- Destiny Christian School
- Rochester Academy Charter School
- James Monroe Upper School
- Edison Tech
- Eastridge High School
- Irondequoit High School
- Spencerport High School
- Freeport High School
- Long Beach High School
- Locust Valley High School
- West Hempstead High School
- Plainview-Old Bethpage HS
- Hempstead High School
- Lynbrook High School
- Massapequa High School
- Center Moriches High School
- Amityville Memorial High School
- Walt Whitman High School
- Sachem East High School
- North Babylon High School
- Longwood High School
- Ward Melville High School
- Sachem North High School