Tons of of highschool ladies throughout the Bay Space reside out a dream.
From the far reaches of the East Bay to the Peninsula, youngsters in shorts, jerseys and in some circumstances intimidating eye-black are celebrating touchdowns and victories with smiles and high-fives throughout a groundbreaking flag soccer season.
“This has been a dream of mine since I used to be a bit of woman,” Dublin Excessive senior Sydney Costello mentioned.
Seven months after the California Interscholastic Federation unanimously gave its 10 sections approval to play flag soccer, the game’s recognition has exceeded even optimistic expectations.
Some colleges, together with Pittsburg and Freedom in East Contra Costa County, reduce dozens of gamers throughout tryouts as a result of there weren’t sufficient spots.
At Menlo Faculty in Atherton, Corridor of Fame quarterback Steve Younger is an assistant coach on a workforce that features his two daughters.
“When this got here up, I didn’t know if we’d have any curiosity in any respect,” mentioned Central Coast Part commissioner Dave Grissom, whose workplace oversees colleges from San Francisco to King Metropolis. “It’s simply taken off. I’m shocked, pleasantly shocked, that it’s taken off like this.”
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Sort out soccer and flag soccer guidelines are clearly totally different, however the scene at California Excessive in San Ramon on Tuesday night time for a trio of women video games had all of the pageantry and enthusiasm of Friday Night time Lights.
Cheerleaders and dancers went by means of routines on the sidelines in entrance of bleachers stuffed with mother and father and college students, some holding colourful indicators with the quantity and title of their favourite gamers.
These sights and virtually the entire sounds are precisely like a deal with soccer sport.
Spectators shouted acquainted phrases corresponding to “get them” and “that’s not a flag” at gamers and officers. The newest songs from artists corresponding to Olivia Rodrigo blared throughout breaks in motion, and a thunderous “TOUCHDOWN” boomed from the general public tackle after each rating. The one distinction from deal with soccer is the dearth of pads popping in opposition to one another.
“Our dwelling video games are already massive and thrilling, and it’s nice to see how a lot assist the game is already getting,” mentioned San Ramon Valley junior Brianna Shapiro, whose workforce was among the many three taking part in at California.
The video games final about an hour because the groups play with a operating clock apart from the final two minutes of every 20-minute half. The fields are 80 yards lengthy and 40 yards large.
There are seven gamers on the sphere for every workforce, down from 11 for deal with soccer. Gamers don’t put on pads or helmets, and there’s no tackling and restricted contact. Pulling a flag hooked up to a ball service’s waist means the play is over.
Grissom estimates that 30 to 40 of his 152 colleges are taking part in ladies flag soccer this fall. All of them have impartial schedules — there isn’t a league play this season — however that figures to alter as the game grows.
Within the neighboring North Coast Part, which extends from the East Bay to the coastal aspect of the Oregon border, commissioner Pat Cruickshank mentioned 32 of his 177 colleges are taking part this season, with the groups grouped into conventional leagues.
The CCS and NCS is not going to maintain playoffs this yr, however are planning to have them beginning in 2024.
The Oakland Part is anticipated to have seven groups play this fall, six from the Oakland Athletic League plus one constitution faculty. The part plans to carry a championship sport just a few hours earlier than its Silver Bowl, the title sport between its deal with soccer groups.
The game isn’t simply drawing the curiosity of women. A number of former highschool deal with soccer coaches are actually teaching the women.
Bellarmine’s Mike Janda, who retired in 2020 because the CCS’s all-time winningest coach, helps at Notre Dame-San Jose, working beneath his longtime assistant John Amarillas.
Within the East Bay, Pittsburg’s Victor Galli and Freedom’s Kevin Hartwig are again as head coaches for his or her colleges’ flag soccer groups.
“I feel it’s nice for soccer,” Hartwig informed the Bay Space Information Group in August. “Offers it a brand new spark.”
Although the game is off to a powerful begin, colleges nonetheless face challenges.
Sacred Coronary heart Prep athletic director Jason Armstrong mentioned discovering referees has been troublesome and, as many anticipated when the CIF made flag soccer an official sport, subject availability is a matter.
To work across the dilemma, faculty officers are scheduling flag soccer video games in the midst of the week. Menlo Faculty and Sacred Coronary heart Prep, neighbors on Valparaiso Avenue in Atherton, opened the season in opposition to one another on Wednesday within the ladies’ model of the Valpo Bowl.
Even with logistical hurdles, the joy is obvious throughout the Bay Space. In that Valpo Bowl, greater than 500 followers noticed the Gators beat the Knights and had been entertained by Sacred Coronary heart Prep’s band and dance workforce, bringing a big-game really feel to the weekday afternoon.
At Pittsburg, 80 ladies tried out for about 30 spots on the roster. Galli, who stepped down as the varsity’s deal with soccer coach final season after 20 years, needed to make some troublesome choices.
“I’m certain the plan subsequent yr is we’re going to do two groups,” Galli mentioned. “I don’t like breaking hearts.”
For many who get to play, few hearts have been damaged.
Woodside’s Lilie Parodi has been round soccer for years. Her dad, Mike, is the deal with soccer coach at Hillsdale.
In her workforce’s scrimmage final week in opposition to Menlo Faculty, Parodi scored Woodside’s first landing, an exciting second to start out a historic season.
Parodi, who additionally competes in dance and monitor, desires others taking part in flag soccer to expertise related highlights.
“I’m hoping it conjures up a variety of new ladies to return out and see that they will do a sport that’s principally boy-dominant,” Parodi mentioned. “Women can come out right here and be good at it, too, and lead a workforce and know every thing. Present up the boys a bit of.”
They usually’ll get their likelihood to shine on the gridiron, which sounds nice to Dublin senior Adrianna Avelar.
“Now we get to be beneath the lights, as an alternative of within the bleachers,” she mentioned.
Darren Sabedra contributed to this report.