Almost every sport at Berkeley High School has a girls and boys team, with the exception of football. However, this could change soon. On February 3, 2023, the State of California approved girls flag football as a new California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) sport. BHS is currently considering adding flag football as a girls sport, and an interest meeting was held on April 27 to gauge interest in female athletes at BHS.
Isabel Nieto Gonzalez is a BHS junior who was present at the interest meeting. She’s interested in joining the team because it would be a new experience for her, and she has personal connections to the sport. “I’ve always watched football growing up because of my brother and because of my dad,” she said.
Sophomore Mariah Lillard-Richner also has family connections to the sport through playing flag football with her family. “I like football, I like watching it and so I think it would be really fun to play it,” Lillard-Richner said. “And since it’s flag I wouldn’t actually really get hurt … so I think it would be really fun,” she continued.
Both junior Karla Nieto Gonzalez and Lillard-Richner said that they would be happy to play either contact or flag football, but didn’t feel strongly that BHS should have a girls contact football team. “I think it’s ok (that the girls team is flag) because I think it’s scary that boys even play contact,” Richner said.
In the past, a lack of experience has kept Karla Nieto Gonzalez from trying out for school sports. “I did tennis, but I wouldn’t join the team just because I know our team is really competitive and … I feel like I’m not that good, so I didn’t even try to try out,” said Karla Nieto Gonzalez. Many people at the interest meeting didn’t have any prior experience, which made her feel more confident because she wouldn’t “feel pressure from everyone else.”
Lillard-Richnard echoed this, adding that a large team leaves lots of opportunities for many people to join. “There were a lot of people there (at the interest meeting) who were excited about it. There’s not that many sports and a lot of them are really competitive, but football teams are really big and it would give more people an opportunity to play a sport.”
“This would really be something that’s good for the school, especially for all the girls in the school,” said Isabel Nieto Gonzalez. “It will create a space for girls that are interested in football…it’s going to build another small community,” said Gonzalez.
While girls flag football has been approved by the state, there are still many obstacles that stand in the way of the potential new team at BHS. It may take time for other schools in the area to develop a team. This means that if the team gets started in the 2023-24 school year, they may not have enough opponents to be in a league. Even if the team cannot find many official opponents, they would be able to participate in scrimmages and develop their flag football skills.
Despite uncertainty about the timeline, Karla Nieto Gonzalez, Isabel Nieto Gonzalez, and Lillard-Richner are excited about the potential of a new flag football team.
“I think it’s a pretty different sport compared to everything else because it is more aggressive,” Gonzalez said. “So I feel like it’s pushing them to try new things, and it’s just gonna build another small community,” They added.