Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) have a brand new sport for their fall season. Thanks to a partnership with sports apparel giant Under Armour (UA) and the National Football League’s Baltimore Ravens, girls’ flag football is being offered at all 10 of their high schools.
“We are always looking at expanding our athletic offerings,” says Kevin Kendro, FCPS’s supervisor of athletics and extracurricular activities.
Several years ago, the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association (MPSSAA) discussed a potential partnership with the Ravens and youth flag football. The COVID-19 pandemic was in full swing, so the partnership did not happen, but the MPSSAA advised school systems that if they were still interested in starting a flag football league to contact the Ravens. FCPS reached out and monthly meetings began.
“We knew (girls’ flag football) was a fast-emerging sport,” Kendro says. “We were able to get everything done this past February, and we were excited to move forward.”
FCPS gauged interest in the sport by hosting clinics, and for this first fall season, more than 300 female student athletes are participating at the varsity and B Coach (similar to junior varsity) levels. “It has been unbelievable,” Kendro says. The school system also had no trouble hiring coaches for the sport, as many had previously coached community or youth level teams. FCPS is the first school system in the state to offer the non-contact sport.
In mid-August, the Ravens and UA hosted a custom uniform reveal for the inaugural season before the football team’s training camp practice at UA’s Performance Center in Owings Mills. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh spoke to the girls in attendance.
The Ravens have provided grant funding for the pilot program. “They are so supportive in everything that they do,” Kendro says. “They want to see this go well. They want to see FCPS do well so it can potentially expand across the state. Without the Ravens, I’m not sure we would be where we are today.”
Based on the excitement for girls’ flag football, Kendro is very optimistic the sport will be a regular part of the fall sports season lineup. His office has received numerous inquires not just from local families and community members but other school systems; organizations based in other states; and colleges asking about it.
“I only see girls flag football expanding,” he adds.
The season officially began Aug. 30 during a Kick Off Classic event at Frederick High School where several Ravens players and cheerleaders were scheduled to attend. The girls’ flag football championship will be decided on Nov. 1, with the top four teams playing at UA’s The House in Baltimore. The winning team will be acknowledged during the Ravens Dec. 10 home game versus the Los Angeles Rams.
“It is such a cool experience for our young ladies,” Kendro says. The most important part Kendro hopes all student athletes take away from participating is to have fun and build friendships.
“A lot of times when we talk about high school athletics, everyone wants to win, but it is the bus rides to games, it’s the (gatherings) the night before, it is the joking before and after practice,” he says. “It is building those friendships and the natural leadership traits that are built with playing high school sports— to make them better leaders in the future. That is the goal of high school sports — to teach life lessons through sport and that is what we hope happens.”