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Broncos welcome impressive turnout for girls' high school flag football coaching clinic

On Monday night, the Broncos hosted dozens of girls high school football coaches for presentations and drill suggestions ahead of the 2023 season.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — For evidence of the rapid growth of girls' high school flag football in the Denver area, look no further than the Pat Bowlen Fieldhouse on Monday.

The facility was bustling with athletic directors, coaches and assistants, all eager to learn more about the ascendent sport during the second annual girls' high school football coaching clinic. Through the clinic, participants discussed rules, playbook development, practice planning and more, with the end goal of supporting coaching staffs across the area ahead of the upcoming season.

In addition to preparing for the upcoming season, the women's flag advocates, from leaders in the public schools to the Broncos organization, are working toward their goal of sanctioning the sport statewide in April. The sport's traction in its first year has surprised even its most ardent supporters.

"It's really grown from last year where we were just recruiting people to coach who were a lot of good people who wanted to help, to robust coaching staffs," Jeffco Public Schools Executive Director of Athletics and Activities Patrick Simpson said. "You can see the scale growing. And I think it's growing faster than we ever imagined, which is exciting."

According to Broncos Director of Youth and High School Development Bobby Mestas, the growth of girls' flag football at the high school level is clear from both statistics and feedback.

Mestas anticipates the number of participating schools increasing from 22 last season to 58 schools and more than 70 total teams in 2023. The reviews from the girls who suited up to play in the first season were encouraging as well.

"I think everybody who participated last year really enjoyed the experience, [from the] top on down from athletic directors to coaches and players," Mestas said. "Feedback's been really good, but what's always great.. is we're always willing to listen, take feedback in – good or bad. We want to make the experience as good as possible, so we know the rules [and] the format may have to adjust a little bit for the betterment of the game, which we're fine with."

To become a sanctioned sport, girls' flag football will need approval from a range of committees assessing different aspects of its impact. In its first season, girls' flag football filled a void within the high school sports ecosystem with several significant benefits.

The sport allows for a wide range of skill and experience levels and provides an opportunity for girls to play a high school sport without the stresses of cuts. That benefit is especially important to counteract the trend of declining participation rates among female students in high school sports, and Mestas estimates that around 150 of the girls who signed up for flag football had never played a high school sport before.

"It's not like other sports where you need five years of skill development," Mestas said. "Any girl who wants to be a part of a team, who's willing to work hard and practice and learn the fundamentals can go out there and have success with girls' flag, Day 1. It's open to everybody and that's what's fantastic."

Simpson also highlighted girls' interest in the sport of football as a key factor behind its immediate success at the high school level. Presenting those athletes with an opportunity to play a sport they love at a competitive environment has been one of the major successes from girls' flag football's first year.

The Broncos' continued investment in the sport's growth has made the partnership an exciting experience for administrators, coaches and players.

"The Broncos have given so much legitimacy to this, and their support has been unbelievable," Simpson said. "I think we could do this with the districts that got involved, [but] there's no way we would have got it going at this scale with this much enthusiasm without the Broncos, there's no question about that."

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