When the news came down last week that the only area school who attempted to add flag football for this school year had to cancel its season before it ever began, it was disappointing, but not entirely unexpected.
From the moment the AHSAA and the Atlanta Falcons teamed up to make girls’ flag football a state-sanctioned sport, it seemed like the school, athletic directors, and athletes were left scrambling from the start to try and figure out how they might make this new sport work at their school, or if it was even possible.
In the days after the AHSAA announced that it was adding the sport and in speaking with a number of area athletic directors about the addition, they all seemed to come back to one word when trying to sum up its addition: Shock.
Nearly all of the Ads had no idea the sport was coming ahead of the announcement in May earlier this year, with ADs telling me that most times when a new sport is added, for example swimming or eSports, they had some idea ahead of time. That wasn’t the case with flag football.
Now, I’m not going say the AHSAA is entirely to blame, or they do a bad job or anything like that, far from it, but at the least they could have given schools a little more warning than an end of year meeting that was held roughly a month before school was out for the year. Maybe it was the Falcons who were shuffling their feet and couldn’t commit to funding and helping out until that time, but either way, giving schools essentially four weeks to try and get info on the new sport, trying to gauge interest, and trying to find out who their opponents might be is not nearly enough time.
And you saw that reflected as the season got underway. Originally there were 68 schools that originally committed to fielding a team across the state. By September 1, that number sank to 44 and could fall even lower as things go on, with over 75 percent of them in the Birmingham-Tuscaloosa area. I would guess that those 24 teams who dropped, including Guntersville here, were all for the same reason of dwindling numbers.
Think about how every other sport is handled across the state. Right now, the meetings and tryouts for spring sports are happening, and will soon be followed by workouts and fundraisers, and everything else that goes into putting a team together.
Flag football had four weeks, four weeks at a time when sports are winding down and students are more focused on exams and finishing out the year rather than worry about sports for next year. There was no time for tryouts, or offseason programs, or building towards all the things a team needs to play a season in any sport. Shoot, even into August, some ADs couldn’t even find the flag football page on th AHSAA website, or didn’t know all the schools had decided to add a team.
My hope is that with more time, and seeing how the game is played and what all goes into fielding a team for the schools who do play this year, that flag football is given a chance going forward by Sand Mountain schools. I know it’s not going to be for every school, especially at smaller schools where they may need every girl they can for the volleyball program, but any new sport and team at a school is a positive, and hopefully in the future, the schools, ADs, and students will have more time, information, and resources to make adding the sport a reality.