At a sinewy 5-foot-3, Andrea Castillo seems like a soccer participant — anything she the moment was developing up in Panama.
But it did not take prolonged to understand that “the lovely game” was not for her.
She was 12, just moving into secondary college, when she gave up fútbol for the fledging sport of flag soccer. It proved to be a fantastic shift for the now 18-calendar year-old, who this summer season quarterbacked Panama to a bronze medal in the Environment Video games in Birmingham, Ala.
“I believe a large amount about that,” she mentioned of the decision to stop just one of her country’s most well-known sports for 1 that experienced tiny additional than a cult adhering to. “I’ve been expanding with flag football. … I have had the opportunity to be in all these activities and have all these achievements at a younger age.”
The sport has blossomed virtually as quickly as Castillo’s vocation. And though the world-wide attractiveness of the Countrywide Football League has served fuel flag football’s increase in Panama and somewhere else, about the only thing the two athletics share is the form of the ball.
Flag football is ordinarily played with five persons on a side on a area about two-thirds the measurement of an NFL gridiron, which helps make for a vast-open match played at a breakneck speed. That also tends to make pace, agility and creativeness a lot more vital than dimension or brute power, a explanation ladies and girls are flocking to the sport in huge quantities.
The California Interscholastic Federation, which governs higher college sports activities in the point out, is thinking about a proposal to certify flag football as a varsity activity. 6 states have taken that stage currently, and at the very least 20 other individuals are discovering it.
The NFL is also on board.
The Rams and Chargers are sponsoring a league that involves 16 girls’ flag football teams in Southern California, and more than 10,000 women are participating in in NFL-sponsored leagues close to the country. At the higher education amount, 18 National Assn. of Intercollegiate Athletics schools in 10 states are actively playing women’s flag soccer this season, as are a handful of faculties at the Countrywide Junior Faculty Athletic Assn. stage.
With extra than half a million members and 1,640 lively leagues, according to the NFL, flag football is between the fastest-growing athletics in the U.S.
“That’s the natural beauty of flag soccer. Every person can perform. It is accessible and inclusive.”
— Andrea Castillo, Panama quarterback
“You can see the chance, and now to introduce the sport to large college women, this is a generational impact that we’re acquiring,” explained Jonathan Franklin, director of social justice and football progress for the Rams.
Franklin reported the NFL has emphasised girls’ flag soccer mainly because pretty much every single higher university in the state has a tackle-football plan for boys.
“As we look at inclusion and option, there has not been access automatically for girls to play in a harmless way,” he stated. “So by this pilot software, we wished to make guaranteed that we give girls an prospect to have possession of their personal activity, to increase their sport, to make that enthusiasm, that need.
“There are boys-only athletics, appropriate? Now let’s make chances for women.”
The sport also has a substantial next in Latin The united states, thanks in component to the simplicity of the match. Like soccer, all it needs is a smaller open up place, a ball and a handful of buddies.
And gender doesn’t make a difference, Castillo said.
“That’s the elegance of flag football. Anyone can perform. It is accessible and inclusive,” she explained. “We don’t have any difficulty with the gender thing in Panama with flag football. Females have been represented a large amount and perform soccer and we have finished a great position.”
“It empowers ladies. It provides equal representation on the discipline. So there is no boundaries.”
— Diana Flores, flag soccer quarterback
Diana Flores of Mexico Town was drawn to the activity when she was 8. Her father — who played quarterback for Monterrey Tech, Mexico’s prime college or university application — took her to a apply and she was hooked, quitting piano and dance classes to enjoy flag football as a substitute.
Mainly because there ended up no groups at the time for ladies her age, she had to compete towards players two times as outdated, a handicap she turned into an benefit.
“I was enjoying with girls that were being taller than me, of training course quicker than me,” she claimed. “But I learned to target on my skills, on the matters that created me improved, and to perform on them. … It gave me the prospect to develop as an athlete and as a human being.”
8 years later on, she created Mexico’s nationwide team, enjoying in the initial of four Flag Football Entire world Championships in which she has appeared so much. This year, as Mexico’s commencing quarterback at age 24, she beat the U.S. two times — the 2nd earn coming in the Globe Games final, the place she done 20 of 28 passes for 210 yards and 4 touchdowns in a 39-6 romp.
Mexico’s women’s staff is the most successful in the history of the activity, successful 3 gold medals, a silver and a bronze in the International Federation of American Soccer Earth Championships, a level of competition that is held just about every two several years.
“It empowers females,” Flores reported of flag soccer, which in Mexico challenges not only sporting stereotypes but gender ones as well. “It gives equivalent representation on the discipline. So there’s no restrictions.”
According to Flores, an approximated 3 million persons perform flag football in Mexico, where colleges are commencing to award scholarships for women of all ages to perform.
“This is just a first phase for opening new paths and new options. Not only Mexico, but throughout the world,” she explained. “That’s why I’m joyful to be an ambassador and commence opening all those doorways.”
1 doorway she hopes will open soon is the just one leading to the Olympics. Flag soccer is 1 of nine sports activities that past thirty day period petitioned for inclusion in the 2028 Los Angeles Online games, alongside motorsports, cricket, karate, baseball/softball, lacrosse, kickboxing, breaking and squash.
The sport would show up to have essential facets that the Global Olympic Committee appears to be for: It’s speedy, has a workable number of gamers and a rigorous time limit — with halves lasting in between 15 and 25 minutes, based on the competitors.
Rosters are 15 players deep and call is not allowed, which implies no tackling, diving, blocking or screening. In its place, players use flags that hang alongside their sides on a belt to “tackle” the ballcarrier, an opponent should pull off one particular of the two flags.
There are no punts or kickoffs. Pass rushers will have to commence 7 yards off the line of scrimmage, and quarterbacks have just 7 seconds to get rid of the ball they can not operate with it until they hand it off to a teammate initially.
Flag football’s inclusion in the Environment Game titles, which were first held in 1981 to highlight functions competing for a location on the Olympic calendar, was an critical stage in having worldwide recognition. (This summer’s opposition showcased 3,600 athletes from 110 countries competing in 30 occasions, like wheelchair rugby and tug of war.)
The IOC is envisioned to announce its selection regarding extra sports activities for the Los Angeles Online games at its common assembly next spring in Mumbai.
Flores is not keeping her breath.
But then, she claimed, she doesn’t have to have an Olympic medal to validate her occupation. Flag soccer has taken her to competitions in Italy, Denmark, Israel, the U.S. and Central The united states. What she would like to do is give again to the video game by helping it develop.
“I’m below and I’m just one of the most effective in the environment, you know? So to be in a position to demonstrate to all the very little ladies that they are in a position to do that, I assume that’s what we’re doing,” she claimed. “We’re inspiring gals and young children to aspiration huge. And to see that it is attainable for their dreams to appear correct. It is doable to do almost everything they want.”