USA Football emphasizes the importance of football for all and actively supports and participates in the creation of pathways for more people to participate in the sport. In the coming months, USA Football will highlight and share the experiences of exceptional members of the football community who have expanded the sport’s scope through their play.
As football’s accessibility and popularity expand, more girls and women are participating in the sport across many levels, including U.S. Women’s Flag National Team cornerback and wide receiver Nadia Bibbs.
Bibbs is one of the pioneers who has taken advantage of football’s expanding pathways to pursue her dreams. She won a gold medal with the U.S. National Team at the 2021 International Federation of American Football (IFAF) Flag Football World Championship and took home a silver medal from The World Games 2022.
Bibbs took a long road to arrive at her current role with the U.S. National Team. Her football journey began at a young age.
“I started playing tackle football as a little girl,” Bibbs said. “After many years of begging my father to play, he finally allowed me to join a pop warner team in the fifth grade. He was always afraid I would get hurt, but he saw me tackle a kid while playing in our neighborhood without pads on and agreed that I could handle it. I played many sports growing up in the neighborhood with the other kids, and football was a sport that I immediately took a liking to, especially because I was told I couldn’t do it because I was a girl.”
Bibbs convinced her father to let her play, but she still felt singled out in the sport at times because she was a girl.
“Early in life, I would hear a lot of negative talk that girls can’t play football or even that girls shouldn’t play football,” Bibbs recalled. “I was called a ‘boy’ just because I enjoyed playing the sport. When I was younger, that was pretty demoralizing and draining at times. I just wanted to play a sport that I loved.”
“You shouldn’t be discouraged from following your passion just because there are doubters,” Bibbs said. “There will always be doubters. So why not prove them wrong? I learned at a very young age that I did not like to be put in a box. If I want to achieve something, I can do it.”
Bibbs didn’t have the easiest path to play football in her youth. She faced negativity from people who questioned if a girl could play the sport, but Bibbs used that doubt as a source of personal growth.
“Playing football when I was younger helped me grow in a lot of ways,” said Bibbs. “It helped me understand that I can do anything if I put my mind to it and put in the hard work. It helped me understand that I can still accomplish things even if there are people telling me that I can’t.”
Bibbs had to give up tackle football once she reached the eighth grade. There was no long-term pathway for women to continue playing the game. Bibbs turned her attention to basketball. She flourished on the hard court, becoming an Adidas All-American and going on to play at Boston University and Northwestern University. She also suited up for Mexico’s National Team for six years.
After her college basketball career ended, Bibbs had the urge to return to football. Fortunately, local flag football leagues provided her with a new outlet to enjoy the sport. Eventually, she learned about USA Football’s U.S. Flag National Team.
“I had been playing in a competitive local co-ed league on the southside of Chicago called A2 for about ten years,” Bibbs recalled. “It was extremely competitive with many retired NFL players and Division I female athletes. For the longest time, I was not aware that a national team even existed. It wasn’t until I started traveling and met more people and learned about it. Once I learned about the U.S. National Team, making the roster became my biggest goal.”
Bibbs began traveling to more flag tournaments, eventually meeting members of the U.S. Women’s Flag National Team who won gold medals at the 2018 IFAF Flag Football World Championship. She got the big news in November of 2019.
“I received an email from USA Football stating that I made the U.S. Flag National Team preliminary roster and was invited to try out for the U.S. National Team,” Bibbs said. “I absolutely screamed upon receiving the news. It was an amazing moment for me and something I had been working toward for a long time.”
Bibbs earned a roster spot on the past two U.S. Women’s National Teams. She views her teammates as some of the most inspirational athletes she’s worked with in football.
“Everyone on the team puts in the commitment and effort to grow the sport and represent our country,” said Bibbs. “I’m so proud of them for that.”
She’s also proud of how much flag football and opportunities to participate in the sport have grown since her days of playing tackle football in her neighborhood.
“The sport has grown tremendously. I had to stop playing it initially because there were no pathways for me to pursue. Now girls can get a college scholarship by playing the sport,” said Bibbs. “I think it has come a very long way but still has the high ceiling to grow. I think we still need to see flag football offered as a varsity sport in all high schools and as a varsity sport in the NCAA. We just have to continue bringing awareness to the sport.”
Bibbs is one of many exceptional women who represents the U.S. Women’s Flag National Team. She and USA Football will continue championing the sport’s growth for all who wish to participate.