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News / Sports / Prep Sports

Martinez: Girls flag football falls just short of becoming WIAA sport

By Tim Martinez, Columbian Assistant Sports Editor
Published: May 13, 2024, 9:50pm

Adding a new sport under the jurisdiction of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association is hard. Just ask anyone affiliated with girls lacrosse.

Slowpitch softball was the last sport added to the WIAA’s sports offerings in 2018 and that was a reintroduction of a sport that was eliminated in the early 2000s.

The last completely new sport was girls bowling in 1999. The last time a new sport for boys only was added? You’re talking generations.

Amendments were proposed this spring to the WIAA Representative Assembly to potentially add three new sports next year. All three proposals were rejected.

The Representative Assembly is a body of 53 school administrators — 35 high school and 18 middle school — from each of the nine WIAA districts.

The three sports rejected were girls flag football, girls badminton and e-sports. E-sports is not gender specific, but current club teams tend to be male-dominated.

To be adopted, an amendment needs approval from 60 percent of the assembly. That’s 32 votes for amendments that apply to both high school and middle school, and 21 votes for just high school.

Girls flag football fell six votes short of approval, receiving 26 of 53 votes.

Girls flag football has been growing with the support of the NFL. Currently, 10 states offer girls flag football for high schools.

The Seattle Seahawks have been supporting the sport in Washington since 2021, and the team reports that more than 80 high schools in the state offer the sport as a club sport.

That sounds like a good number, until you realize the WIAA consists of nearly 800 member schools in the state. Even the number of member high schools is more than 400.

So why was the proposal rejected? Well, money for starters.

School districts across the state are facing budget reductions. The idea of adding another sport with added costs for things like hiring coaches and transportation just wasn’t in the cards this year.

Also finding a season was an issue. From a participation standpoint, winter would be best. Fall is already stacked with volleyball, soccer, swimming, cross country and slowpitch softball for girls. And the spring offers fastpitch softball, track and field, tennis and golf for girls.

While a winter might be feasible on the west side of the state, it’s a very chilly challenge on the east side.

The proposal could be offered up again next year. And a 26-vote approval is a promising start.

The road to WIAA sanction is much tougher for badminton and e-sports. Those sports received 17 and 14 yes votes respectively.

In total, 27 proposals were put before the Representative Assembly this year, which is like twice the normal amount.

A 28th proposal that would change the rules pertaining to transfers from one school to another was pulled from the ballot. Instead, the WIAA formed a special committee to study possible changes to WIAA transfer rules ahead of next year’s vote.

Of the 14 proposals that were passed, some were administrative in nature, dealing with issues like how leagues are formed, league oversight and WIAA membership fees.

Two separate proposals that were passed require that any student ejected from a game or match must complete a sportsmanship course, and that any coach who was ejected must complete a teaching and modeling behavior course.

These amendments were part of a greater push by the WIAA to reduce coach and player ejection, which have been on the rise in recent years.

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Other passed amendment of note:

The minimum number of practices required to start the season have been reduced for all sports except football and gymnastics. In most cases, that number was reduced from 10 to seven. Wrestling was dropped from 10 to nine.

The previous age requirements that a head coach be at least 21 years old and an assistant at least 19 have been removed. Now coaches must simply be high school graduates or have their GED.

Tennis coaches will now be given two minutes to talk with players between sets and 90 seconds on all changeovers. Previously, interaction was limited to two minutes between the first and second sets and up to 10 minutes between second and third sets.

The limit on the number of meets that track and field teams may compete at during the season was removed. Now, there will be a 10-meet limit on individual athletes. Many teams currently opt to send athletes to different invitational meets on the same weekend to provide them with competition that matches their ability. Removing the team limit provides teams with more flexibility.

Multi-day track and field meets will now be counted as one meet, provided that an athlete participated in no more than four events at the same meet.

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