The State of Flag Football – Flag Football in High School and College

By Samuel Teets | Posted 8/16/2023

Opportunities for girls and women to play football aren’t limited to Powderpuff in high school and intramural flag in college. Chances to play competitive flag football for league, state and national titles are rapidly expanding thanks to the support of football leaders across the youth, college and professional spaces.  

As the governing body of American football in the United States, USA Football is a leading voice in flag football, providing opportunities and recommendations to meet athletes’ needs for competitive play from the youth level through the non-profit’s U.S. Women’s Flag Football National Teams.  

Flag football’s popularity is increasing exponentially in the United States and internationally. An annual participation study from the Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA) in 2022 revealed that 7.1 million people in the U.S. participated in flag football with approximately 2.5 million people routinely engaging with the sport. 

The sport is opening new doors domestically. Flag football has received status as a sanctioned high school varsity sport for girls in eight states. NFL teams in states that don’t sanction girls flag football, such as the Carolina Panthers, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers, are supporting pilot leagues to position the game as a future varsity sport.  

Flag football is also expanding in college with scholarship opportunities for the sport’s top athletes and a national championship at the NAIA level. Ashlea Klam, a member of the gold medal-winning 2023 U.S. Women’s Flag National Team and an athlete representative on USA Football’s Board of Directors, is uniquely qualified to speak on this growth. She will attend Keiser University in Florida this fall on a flag football scholarship.  

“If I was able to tell my seven-year-old self that I am going to play college flag football on a scholarship, my little self, even my parents when I was that age, would not believe me at all. It means everything to me,” said Klam. “I hope to see even more growth in this game as more states offer flag football at a sanctioned level. To see people take this sport seriously at the high school and college levels would mean so much to me and many other girls.” 

U.S. Women's National Team member Addison Orsborn in action for Ottawa University.
U.S. Women's National Team member Addison Orsborn in action for Ottawa University

Three of Klam’s fellow national team members, Jazlyn Camacho, Kennedy Foster and Addison Orsborn, play NAIA college flag football. Camacho and Orsborn play for powerhouse Ottawa University (Kan.), which has won three consecutive NAIA national championships under U.S. Women’s National Team assistant coach Liz Sowers.  

Flag football’s inclusivity, low costs and fast-paced play make it an excellent addition to high school or college athletic departments. USA Football and its partners are hopeful that more schools and states will offer the sport as it captures the imagination of a new generation of athletes.