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Girls Flag Football Strives for its own "Friday Night Lights"

Updated: Aug 1, 2022

Athletes continuously sacrifice their lifestyles to play a sport that they love.

Daniela Takashima is not different. She commuted by herself, 7 hours every weekend to practice and play with Arizona’s D1 Lady Ghost Flag Football Club.

Takashima was born in Mexicali, Mexico and later moved to El Centro, California. She drove the distance to compete in a sport that she knew would give her many opportunities in the future. That sacrifice was worth everything to her. She had a fierce love for the game of football at a young age.

“I was a really big fan of football and I wanted to play it,” Takashima said.

Everyone told her she was crazy for wanting to play.

“But I wasn’t a normal kid. I was five, I was really tall and tough and I wanted to play with the guys.”

Although her mother did not enjoy the idea of tackle football in fear of her getting hurt, she found a new passion for the game of flag football. When Takashima first started playing, many questioned why she dedicated so much time into a sport that she would not have a future in.

However, with the rise of Girls Flag Football in Arizona and various other states; she earned an opportunity to play at a collegiate level at Cottey College, an NAIA Independent school in Nevada, Missouri. She will be officially the first Mexican-American to play at the collegiate level.

“To move from Mexico to the United States and play college football is a big opportunity,” Lady Ghosts Defensive Coordinator Frank Moreno said.

Takashima can officially say that all her hard work and perseverance was worth it with confidence.

“I could never afford college without a scholarship, so I decided to use my talent to pay for my college,” Takashima said.

The decision to let girls play football will now give these young women an opportunity at a more affordable college education.

Girl’s Flag Football was announced as a club sport in the Chandler Unified School DIstrict. This includes six schools in addition to Mountain Pointe of the Tempe Union District competing as of Spring 2022.

This decision to let girls play will be able to provide more opportunities for girls to earn college scholarships in the future. Although Arizona was limited to play the sport in one district, the interest for the sport is growing rapidly.

For Women's Flag Football alone, there are currently 15 NAIA colleges that offer $15,000 in total scholarship funds to be distributed among their team by the coach.

Five states: Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Florida and Nevada, have Girls Flag Football as a varsity sport. Over the last 20 years in Florida, the sport has 284 teams competing in the Sunshine State League with two state championships crowned.

In addition, Nike and the NFL released a $5M campaign commercial about bringing Girls Flag Football to every high school in America. The Grand Canyon state is taking full advantage of these efforts.

“In Arizona we can play the sport all year round and we can produce a high capital of players year in and year out because of that,” Lady Ghosts and Basha High School Head Coach Damion Dedmon said. “The possibilities around Girls Flag Football are endless and now that Arizona has a jumpstart on the process young women will have more possibilities to come.”

“Both club and high school teams need to work together in order for the girls to have that learning curve to enjoy the game, love the game and take advantage of the game to where it can help them out in their future years.”

The D1 Lady Ghosts Girls Flag Football Club has a goal of encouraging girls to compete at a high level and give opportunity to players from high schools who do not yet have a team.

“The sport is here and here to stay now that it is on the collegiate level,” Moreno said. “I want to see women have more opportunit[ies], not to say ‘we let them play the game,’ but for them to actually experience it the right way.”

Moreno also enjoys speaking about having his daughter, Amaya in the football game. Amaya competes in the sport as a standout 7th-grade QB.

“I was really excited about the opportunity, [for the girls] to play in high school just like the boys,” Moreno said.

Raising a daughter who has played with boys her whole life and now she will be able to play her game in high school is exciting for Moreno’s family. His daughter’s friends were not sold on the sport, because they wondered; “what do you do after the fact?”

“Now that I see it growing more and more it is super exciting,” Moreno said. “Our high school choice for her will be one with Girls Flag Football.”

“Earlier, flag football wasn’t anything that anyone knew until the colleges started getting into the sport,” Amaya added. “It is growing fast and it is going to be something big one day.”

As of now, the girls in Arizona play games on the practice fields. However, other states allow the girls to play on the same stadium field as the boys.

“The biggest one that I would love to see change next year is to let the girls play in the football stadiums,” Moreno said. “Let them feel the stadiums, let them do those things. That is what is really important to me for females.”

As the numbers rise in interest, opportunity and love for the game of Flag Football, it will not be long until the girls get to have their own version of Friday Night Lights.

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