FOXBOROUGH –– The second that Chelsea athletic director Amanda Albert learned of a startup girls’ flag football league, she couldn’t say yes fast enough.
A 12-time Women’s Football Alliance All-Star and seven-time champion as a center for the Boston Renegades, Albert jumped at the chance for Chelsea to participate in a girls’ flag football league, launched by the New England Patriots Foundation.
The inaugural girls’ high school flag football league will consist of eight teams: Ayer-Shirley, Chelsea, Fitchburg, Leominster, St. Mary’s Lynn, Needham, Peabody, and Woburn. Teams will play head-to-head, beginning next Thursday, with the final scheduled to be played at Gillette Stadium (TBA).
“We’re giving them that opportunity because a lot of young ladies only get to play up until eighth grade,” said Andre Tippett, the former Patriots great who is the team’s executive director of community affairs.
“That’s not fair. Let’s have them have the same opportunity as the young men who play Pop Warner football and move on to the high school level.”
The Patriots Foundation provided a $5,000 grant to each school participating in the inaugural season. Nike donated uniforms that were presented in the visiting team locker room. USA Football is providing equipment.
After the jersey unboxing, athletes ran out onto the field through the inflatable Patriots helmet, set to the music ‘Crazy Train’. Tippett and Patriots second-year cornerback Marcus Jones addressed those on hand.
“I just wanted to come and say hello and I support everything that you guys got going on,” said Jones. “I want to see you have fun.”
For many girls, this is a dream come true after flag football was denied as a sport by the MIAA. Kali Reed, a Leominster senior, played in flag football tournaments across the country and in Panama.
“It means that girls’ flag football will be looked upon as a real sport,” said Reed. “A lot of people don’t see it as a real sport, they see it as a joke. This shows that it will be taken seriously as a real sport and that there’s a future for this sport.”
Several Leominster players cried upon seeing their jerseys, which included a ‘E4R’ patch by the left shoulder in memory of the late Ricky White, a football coach and director of flag football for the Blue Devils. ‘E4R’ stands for ‘Everything for Ricky’, who formed a close relationship with members of the team by coaching them for years.
“Leominster, we’re a football town — period,” said Leominster coach Becky Curley. “To open the door to include girls and give the girls the opportunity to play football in Leominster, it’s a big deal. You girls have the opportunity to kick the door off the hinges for other girls coming behind you.”
Cam Kerry can be reached at email@example.com.