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CIF approves girls flag football

Joe Naiman

Village News Reporter

The CIF San Diego Section’s Board of Managers approved the addition of girls flag football as a CIF sport.

The vote at the Jan. 18 Board of Managers meeting was unanimous. “It’s going to be a great thing,” said CIF commissioner Joe Heinz. “We’re excited to get it going, and I think it will be a great thing for women’s sports.”

Flag football was initially approved as a fall sport for the San Diego Section. “We need to look at it as a section to make sure our governance wants to keep it as a fall sport,” Heinz said.

Field availability, player availability, and compatibility with other CIF sections may alter the plans for flag football to be a fall sport. “We’re still having discussions when we’re going to offer it,” Heinz said.

Currently girls cross country, field hockey, girls golf, girls tennis, and girls volleyball are fall sports while boys football utilizes stadium fields during the fall. Boys soccer and girls soccer are winter sports as are girls basketball and girls water polo, and co-ed competitive cheer is also during that season. During the spring boys lacrosse, girls lacrosse, boys track and field, and girls track and field have practices and events in stadiums while girls also participate in gymnastics, softball, and swim; badminton is a co-ed spring sport albeit in the City Conference only.

The CIF San Diego Section has had girls swim since 1973 and added girls basketball, field hockey, gymnastics, softball, girls tennis, girls track and field, and girls volleyball for 1974-75. Girls cross country races have been held since 1977. The CIF added girls soccer for 1981-82. Girls basketball had been a spring sport, and in 1983 girls basketball was moved to winter to be compatible with other sections competing in the state tournament while field hockey, girls swim, girls soccer, and softball also had their seasons changed.

The CIF added girls water polo in 1996 and girls golf in 2000. In 2002, both boys lacrosse and girls lacrosse became CIF sports. State legislation led to the addition of competitive cheer as a CIF sport in 2017.

Since flag football is currently scheduled to begin in fall 2023, the CIF will need to finalize a season prior to then. “We have to make some final determination,” Heinz said.

Competitive cheer is a single-day event with advanced, intermediate, novice, and non-tumbling divisions. Prior to 2013, CIF playoff divisions for team sports were based on enrollment rather than competitive balance, so girls flag football will be the first new sport since the transition to divisions based on historical team strength. Developing playoff divisions will be one of the tasks the CIF will need to complete for flag football.

“We really haven’t gone down the road on divisions,” Heinz said.

The National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association, which focuses on the college level, has a rulebook for flag football. The National Federation of State High School Associations is developing a rulebook for high school flag football based on the NIRSA rules. Girls flag football at the CIF San Diego Section level is expected to have seven girls from each team on the field at one time with fields measuring 80 yards by 40 yards.

Boys football is a contact sport, and the CIF requires a team to have had 14 days of practice prior to the first game while each player must have at least 10 days of practice before being allowed to compete in a game. Because flag football is a non-contact sport, the CIF only expects to require five days of practice before a game.

The CIF Board of Managers normally meets four times each academic year. The master calendar which determines the first permissible dates of practices, scrimmages, and games for each sport along with the maximum number of permissible contests, the final allowable date for regular-season games, and the playoff dates, is usually adopted at the third meeting which this year will be April 5. The first permissible practice date for flag football thus has not been determined.

“We haven’t done that yet,” Heinz said. “That will also be followed by a sit-out period.”

The CIF San Diego Section has a "dead period" in which contact between coaches and student-athletes is not allowed. The two-week dead period, which was implemented in 2002, prohibits participation or scheduling of organized practices, student-led team practices, team participation in tournaments or clinics, issuance of equipment, school site physical examinations, and organizational meetings.

Individual students are allowed to attend a clinic or tournament, and a weight training school class an athlete is not required to attend does not violate the regulation. The prohibition against team activity rather than activity involving an individual student-athlete allows student-athletes with a relative coaching at the school to discuss athletic matters or participate in informal athletic activities.

CIF championship matches are played at a predetermined site rather than at the venue of the higher-seeded team. A venue for the CIF flag football championships is still to be determined. “We’ll need that as well,” Heinz said.

Other organizational matters will also need to be resolved prior to the start of CIF flag football competition. “We’ve got to worry about officials and everything else, so there are a lot of pieces to it,” Heinz said.


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