One youth football league in Salt Lake City is proving football truly is a game for everyone. The Utah Girls Tackle Football League, set to begin its sixth season this spring, has grown to 460 players spread across grades 4-12.
The league, led by USA Football certified coaches, began after co-founder Brent Gordon’s daughter, Sam, went to a middle school to talk about her experience playing football and nearly every girl expressed interest in playing.
Six weeks later, the league was established and set to begin play for its 50 registered girls. Participation doubled the next two years and grew to 300 in 2018 and 460 in 2019. This season, the league is expecting even more players.
Shawn Goetz, vice president of the league, supervises its 60-plus coaches. He said it is crucial for the league to require coaches to be certified through USA Football, especially with nearly half of the league’s young athletes being first-time players each year.
“The main priority is safety. You are trusting these coaches with a team of girls,” Goetz said. “Anything we can do to make sure they know proper techniques and that they are teaching those things is fantastic.”
Gordon, an executive board member and coach, credits USA Football’s coach certification with his team’s success.
“I tell my kids at the very first day of every season, ‘We have a goal to win a championship, and we are going to do it by doing two things that will make a difference. We’re going to block really well and we’re going to tackle really well,’” Gordon said. “The USA Football certification has videos and other resources that show the proper Heads Up tackling and blocking techniques that are keys to success for any team.”
Creating a league with more than 460 players – and more expected this season – has been a rewarding experience for Gordon.
“Last year, I had a really proud moment as I was setting up the field and I watched these girls show up with their parents and their friends in their football gear all excited to play,” Gordon said. “Watching them warm up and throwing the football around with their parents, I thought, ‘You know what? They look so happy and they are so excited to play. It’s such a big deal for them.’ It was such a proud moment to see how many lives we could touch with football.”
The league has received national attention when Sam Gordon appeared in the NFL 100 Super Bowl LIII commercial. Last Sunday, the league brought 22 high school-aged players and six coaches to the Pro Bowl to scrimmage during halftime at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida. For more information on the league, visit utahgirlstacklefootball.com.
Through USA Football’s Heads Up Football program, more than 700,000 coach certifications have been completed in all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and 10 foreign countries across four continents since 2012. No organization in the world trains more youth and high school football coaches combined.