Three Santa Barbara Unified High Schools participated in the inaugural girls flag football season this fall. This was the first time flag football was an official sport in California schools.
Santa Barbara, San Marcos, and Dos Pueblos High Schools all took part in the new competition that showcases the talent and enthusiasm of its student-athletes. Coaches and players are excited for having the opportunity to play a new sport that challenges and unites them.
DP coach, Dough Caines, was proud to say how well the team has progressed since day one, expressing excitement and deep admiration for their growth.
“It’s been amazing to see these girls go from very little to no football experience, to high-level, smart, varsity level football players,” Caines said. “In terms of the off the field impact–the team has had a certain level of maturity and excitement around the sport.”
Gianna Nichols, DP senior quarterback, is also proud of her team’s accomplishments and what this season has taught them.
“The most enjoyable part about this is to learn as a team. We are a family and we are all learning a new sport together. I’m proud of our effort,” Nichols said. “We work hard in practice and study our game, and I think that that shows in our playing. As a quarterback, I have to be able to help my players out to be ready for the game.”
SBHS head coach Gabe Renteria emphasized that starting from scratch is an opportunity to learn the significance of a sport.
“Flag football in general gives girls the opportunity to learn a new game, the nuisances and fundamentals of it. It’s amazing to have all these girls that play different sports come together and play Flag Football,” Renteria said.
For SBHS player Carolina Esparza, the sport has shaped her ideas about competition.
“Flag football has changed my perspective in teamwork and competition completely. Everyone brings everyone up, we all try to pick up one another,” Esparza said. “When we make a mistake we all work on it together. It’s a team sport that we all enjoy.”
Superintendent Dr. Hilda Maldonado also expressed her excitement for the future of female student-athletes in flag football.
“After seeing their courage and determination on the field, I was impressed with their physical and technical performance. Flag football provides additional opportunities for female athletes to thrive in sports. Our district staff is committed to providing various opportunities for all our students and fostering an environment where everyone can thrive. I look forward to seeing their achievements continue to shine,” said Dr. Maldonado.
Jason Fawl, San Marcos’ coach, expressed how much growth and learning has happened since the beginning of the season.
“This is a new sport for a lot of these student athletes and they stepped in with open arms and open hearts. They have learned and grown so much,” he said. “We have a lot of good young players that can take the team to the next level.”
For most of the student-athletes, including San Marcos senior Laurie Spieler, learning something new is an important factor behind every training session.
“I think the aspect of trying something new for everyone was a very unifying experience, so in order to be a better team, trying new things is very important,” Spieler said. “It’s so amazing the talent we have in the team.”
On Thursday, October 29, Dos Pueblos became the first Channel League Flag Football champions winning 33-14 over Rio Mesa. As if that were not enough, on October 27, DP also demonstrated their skill on the field by advancing to the semi-finals of the LA Chargers Championship tournament. DP was also featured by NFL Network for taking part in that event.