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Gridiron girls

As boys’ participation in tackle football wanes, girls are increasingly putting on the pads and playing

By WITW Staff on September 7, 2017

Are you ready for some football?!

As it turns out, fewer and fewer boys are ready for some football these days. But as the NFL season kicks off on Thursday, the decline of boys’ participation in the sport has been offset by girls’ rapidly growing interest in football, one that continues to surge across the country. And parents in Indiana have founded a girl’s tackle football league for middle and high school age girls, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Chad Oldham, the president of Indiana’s Morris Cohen Mooresville Junior Football League, told the Journal that he looked into starting a girls’ league after his daughter Emily berated him for not letting her play football with boys. After learning about a girls tackle football league in Utah that features Sam “Sweet Feet Gordon,” who famously scored 25 touchdowns as an 8-year-old playing in a boys tackle league, he said was able to find a large group of other girls in the area who were also interested in playing.

“If you have a love of the sport, I think everybody should have an opportunity to play it,” explained 17-year-old Elise Scaggs, who plays alongside her two younger sisters.

Both on and off the field, women and girls are growing increasingly obsessed with America’s most popular sport. More than 1,715 girls played high school football on boys teams in the U.S. during the 2013-2014 season, according to an Ohio University study, while more than 11,000 girls played high school flag football — an 80 percent increase over the past five years.

Video of Holly Neher, a high school quarterback in Florida, recently went viral after she became the first girl to throw a touchdown for her school — and possibly the first girl to throw a touchdown for a varsity team in the entire state. And Becca Longo, an 18-year-old kicker from Arizona, recently became the first woman to earn a football scholarship at the Division II level, prompting one coach to speculate that she could become the first woman to play in the NFL. A glance at a video of Longo, a placekicker, in action shows why she’s so highly touted.

Not everybody’s happy about girls putting on pads and helmets, however. There are legitimate concerns about concussions, which experts warn could be even more prevalent in girls’ football. In Georgia, a high school denied a girl’s request to try out as a kicker for the boys’ varsity team on the basis that it would violate the school’s conservative values. And in Utah, “Sweet Feet” Gordon herself has had to file a title IX suit in an effort to get her school to field a girls’ football team. Below, take a look at some more facts and figures put together by Ohio University about girls’ increasing interest in football.

Read the full story at The Wall Street Journal.


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