Flag football gives female players sense of community, scholarship options and soon shot at Olympics

There were times when Jo Overstreet felt all alone as a standout flag football player on boys teams growing up in Texas.

Sure, she was accepted. Considered just one of the boys.

She longed for something more — a sense of sisterhood.

These days, the 40-year-old receiver for Team USA sees a thriving community of females of all ages and all abilities lifting the sport to new heights. It’s an expansion that will only be enhanced with the sport’s recent addition to the Olympic program for the 2028 Summer Games in Los Angeles.

The non-contact game featuring plenty of fast-paced action has really been on the rise for a while, with girls-specific teams and leagues springing up from coast to coast — from continent to continent, too. Eight states have sanctioned girls flag football as a high school varsity sport — more are initiating pilot programs — and college scholarships are now offered for female players on the NAIA level. The NFL has even thrown its weight behind flag football through leagues and events.

“This is so big for women to be able to say, ‘I have a dream to play football’ — and to actually know that opportunity is really there,” said Overstreet, a former basketball player at the University of Houston who hopes to be in the mix for a roster spot on the inaugural Olympic roster. “Just saying that to myself now, I’m still in shock.”

Ashlea Klam, 19 (right) tries to evade a defender during a training session for her flag football team at Keiser University in West Palm Beach, Fla., Thursday, Nov. 30, 2023. The no-contact sport featuring plenty of offensive action has really been on the rise for a while, with girls-specific teams and leagues springing up from coast to coast. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

  • December 28, 2023
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