The landscape of gridiron youth sports is changing this fall. Yes, there will still be plenty of helmets and pompoms, but Wilton Youth Football and Cheer hopes that fans will embrace another sport come September–girls flag football.
Registration is now open for Wilton’s first, all girls fall flag football program. Beginning Sept. 4, girls from grades 1-12 will be able to play a full season of 10 games, and wear official NFL gear.
The move to include girls in the Youth Football program reflects what’s happening nationwide. Participation in high school tackle football across the country may have decreased slightly in recent years, but overall sports participation at the high school level is higher than ever, thanks to a big boost from female youth athletes. According to Forbes, the 2016-to-2017 increase in the numbers of girls participating in sports is the largest one-year jump since the 2000-01 season.
“We see the participation growth by high school girls as an opportunity to extend football at the youth level,” says Jeff Siegel, president of Wilton Youth Football and Cheer. “Girls have played flag and tackle football here in Wilton, but they tend to stop playing as they get older. We will keep our co-ed youth teams, but we also want to create a safe, inclusive environment for girls of all ages that fosters the benefits of football, including teamwork, discipline, fitness and pride. Tony Palumbo has done a great job growing our flag program over the past few years, and this is a natural extension to continue that growth.”
Over the past three years, the Wilton Youth Football and Cheer program has enjoyed slight growth in participation, which leaders attribute to the organization’s increased commitment to safety as well as the growth in flag football.
Both practices and games will be held at Middlebrook Field. Organizers say the policy of the Wilton Flag Football League is that all student athletes should play multiple sports each season, and coaches will do their best to adjust practice times and game times to fit players’ schedules so they can play multiple sports with little to no conflicts.
The ultimate goal is to have at least 28 players in each Division, which will allow for four teams with seven players each. Each division incorporates two grades:
Registration information for the 2018 fall season of Tackle, Cheer and Flag can be found on the Wilton Youth Football and Cheer website.