Passion for football in Gwinnett County Public Schools is not only apparent in its success on the field, winning six of the last eight state championships, but also from the interest in its newly established girls flag football league.
Although it is not yet an official Georgia High School Association sport, the new activity has drawn hundreds of girls from Gwinnett County Public Schools to try out.
On Wednesday, GCPS held a media day at Duluth High School to highlight some of the excitement with the season beginning Oct. 9.
According to district spokesman Bernard Watson, each team, representing the 19 schools clusters, has 20 roster spots. Mill Creek High School had almost 400 students try out for the team.
“This gives us another opportunity to provide our girls a chance to be active physically, competitively and give them the same chances that our boys have.,” Watson said. “We’ve had tremendous turnout for this already and expect that to continue into the future.”
Kimberlee Mankin, a 2009 Collins Hill graduate, was drawn to be a part of the school’s flag football team because of the opportunity to coach a new sport.
“I’m super excited about this because it levels the playing field for girls that are interested in playing something else,” Mankin said. “Any time you can be a part of a team is beneficial for the rest of your life.”
Mankin said there has been a buzz around the school with less than a week to go until their first game.
“Everybody is excited to see what this is going to turn into,” Makin said. “We have a lot of seniors on the team that are honored to be part of the inaugural team and leave their mark.”
The district-wide flag football program is a partnership with the Atlanta Falcons to promote and encourage growth of the game among females.
“We were just hoping when we put this thing together we would have enough to fill a team, but to have the interest we’ve gotten is huge,” Chris Millman, Atlanta Falcons Director of Community Relations, said. “We know that close to half of our fans are females and they love this game just as much as we do. This is just another avenue to increase the interest level in our game and give girls a chance to play this sport.”
The partnership with the Falcons is very beneficial to GCPS, with the team covering all costs associated from uniforms to equipment — an estimated $110,000 according to district officials.
“We’re excited about the partnership with the Falcons and thankful they’ve chosen our school district as the pilot program and picking up the cost so these girls do not have to pay,” Watson said. “
Duluth senior Gracie Berry said the opportunity to play beyond just a powder puff football game is exciting.
“I participated in the powder puff games my freshman and junior year, but finding out this was coming was something I wanted to try,” Berry said. “It’s amazing that my senior year I get the chance to play football, just really amazing.”
Each school has customized dark and light uniforms. Duluth’s uniforms, which were unveiled Wednesday, have both a white and purple uniform with a large Wildcat logo and number on the front and a Falcons logo on the back to go along with purple shorts.
The seven-week season will have each team play 13 games at five locations — Brookwood, Collins Hill, Discovery, Lanier and Peachtree Ridge.
Collins Hill will play Dacula and Duluth will play Archer in the league’s first official games Oct. 9 at Collins Hill High at 4 p.m.