Written by Kristen Lago
IRVINE, Calif. — They’re the three words that signify fall football: Ready. Set. Go.
What You Need To Know
-The Matt Leinart Flag Football league was launched in conjunction with NFL Flag for kids in 1st-8th grade
-Founded in Newport Beach in 2010, the goal of the league was to provide a fun league for kids to be involved in, while also developing football skills
-This year, the league launched a new high school division for girls
-The inaugural season features nine high school teams, with eight regular season games and a playoff system
The three words signify the start to every play, and they represent routine for every quarterback, including Sierra Vista junior Nayelli Reyes, someone who has always been intrigued by the game.
“I started playing around with the boys one day,” she said. “I was learning to throw and it got to a point where my throwing was better than theirs. They’d get mad at me or be like ‘wow, she can throw.’”
But these days, Reyes isn’t messing around anymore. Now she’s in the center of the action on game day.
Her Sierra Vista team is one of eight others competing in the first girls’ high school flag football league in California.
“First off, I’ve never really heard of a girl’s flag football team ever,” she said. “I think it’s great because a lot of people have been telling me that we’re making history.”
And she is making history, or in this case, “her-story.”
The league is a new development from the Matt Leinart Flag Football league in Orange County. Run in conjunction with the NFL Flag Football program, the league was for kids in 1st-8th grade, but this fall opened to girls in high school.
“With our flag football leagues, we’ve seen the number of girls who wanted to participate, some were on all girls’ teams, some were co-ed and we thought there’s enough girls in this area where we can put together some teams because they wanna play,” Leinart said.
“There’s a massive market for this and I think it’s only a matter of time before more high schools get on board,” he continued. “The goal though is to eventually become a CIF sanctioned sport.”
As he walked around the fields and took in the action on opening day, Leinart couldn’t help but smile. To him, it was exciting to see the platform come to life, one Leinart said was much needed for this community.
“Honestly, I just love competition, I love when girls or boys compete,” he said. “I’m really proud to see all the girls come out and want to play the great game that I love in football and what’s really cool is this is just the beginning. We haven’t even really scratched the surface,” Leinart said. “I mean it’s intense already and that’s what it’s about, it’s fun.”
It is fun, but it’s also competition.
The girls league features 8 regular-season games, followed by playoffs and a championship in mid-November.
For Reyes and many of the other girls taking part, they’ve been able to learn new skills, work as a team and make a little bit of a statement.
“I hope they are inspired to play in a sport guys think females can’t do because I think that’s dumb and it’s not true at all,” Reyes said. “Anyone can do anything as long as they want to and have the passion for that thing.”
Plus to Leinart, everyone can benefit from the great game of football.
“Football whether it’s flag or tackle is the ultimate team sport,” Leinart said. “And the best thing I learned from football, I apply in my life — discipline, work ethic, team, respect, accountability — all of those things are the same here.”
No longer just for the boys, this brand of football is for everybody.