The Sequoyah School in Pasadena is a small private school known for its progressive teaching environment, less so for its athletics. Yet, the school’s flag football team made it into the Los Angeles Times last week for its incredible winning streak.
They went 8-0 this past season but the team of junior high school students had to forfeit all of their wins because having a girl, 13-year-old Ella Wood, on the team is against the Foothill Sports League rules. Anthony Orona, the school's flag football coach, didn't realize the new rule until the season started.
"We're inclusive to everyone that wants to participate," said Orona on AirTalk. "The boys felt the same way and I felt the same way that she is part of the team and to have her not play just was not an option."
Girls were allowed to play on boys teams in the past, but this year the rules were changed to encourage the creation of a girls' flag football league. The problem, though, is that many schools don't have enough girls interested in playing to create their own teams. The Sequoyah School is attempting to form an all-girls team, but just two girls have signed up so far.
"Up until this year we actually did allow girls to play on the boys' flag football teams, and with that came some kind of awkward moments and we had to modify some blocking rules, but we didn't want to deny girls a chance to play," said Jill Cucullu, member of the Foothill Sports League. "We need the Ellas at all our schools to participate on their girls team, talk it up with their girls and get girls flag football started."
Cucullu says the decision not to allow girls was made well before the season start, and that Sequoyah's athletic director was at the meeting when the decision was made.
In flag football, Cucullu explains, the permissible block is two hands at an opponent's chest, often leading to awkward physical interaction on co-ed teams. In addition, if a school doesn't have enough interest for a full girls' team, combining with another school to create a team is an option. Orona says this is not an ideal option.
"That kind of goes against the whole idea of a school team," said Orona. "A lot of these kids want to play for their school. In athletics that's such a big part, playing for your school, the pride of your school and showing what your school represents."
Should girls and boys be allowed to play on the same teams? Why did the Foothill Football League decide against co-ed teams? Is football too much of a contact sport for girls and boys to play against one another? What if a boy wanted to play on a girls team?
Jill Cucullu, Athletic Director at Bethany Christian School in Sierra Madre and a member of the Foothill Sports League
Anthony Orona, Sequoyah School’s flag football coach