Central girls will join competition on gridiron

Hinsdale Central will join the ranks of the state’s newest interscholastic sport next fall: girls flag football.

Hinsdale High School District 86 Board members voted April 11 to field a team at Central to be part of the Illinois High School Association’s inaugural 2024-25 season this fall.

“It’s a new opportunity for our female athletes,” Central athletic director Mike Jezioro said Monday. “It provides another avenue for female students to be involved with the school.”

The IHSA announced in February that girls flag football would become part of its fall slate of full-time activities, complete with an IHSA state series and championship game.

“The addition of girls flag football furthers the IHSA mission of creating participation opportunities for high school students in Illinois,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson in a statement. “The sport has experienced significant growth in a short amount of time, and our member schools are excited to see it become an IHSA sport.”

The cost of the program is estimated to be about $29,000, with $17,000 for uniforms, equipment and transportation, and the rest earmarked for coach stipends. District officials said students led the effort to create a Central team. A survey at Hinsdale South did not indicate enough interest to add the sport at that campus, but South students will be able participate in Central’s program.

“The district could complete the IHSA requirements before August 1 to allow South students to participate on the Central team,” administrators told board members in a memo.

Jezioro said first steps include assembling a coaching staff and scheduling a summer camp. He expects a learning curve as the game is introduced.

“The sport has different rules (than standard football), and not a lot of female athletes grew up playing football,” he said. “It will be a new experience for some of our girls. I think we’re anticipating a smooth transition.”

Dan Tully, IHSA Board president, said in a statement that being willing to adapt as an organization is vital.

“Girls flag football is somewhat unprecedented in terms of its growth and timeline for achieving an IHSA state series. We are enthusiastic about how much has been accomplished in such a short amount of time, and expect that participation will continue to increase in the years ahead,” he said.

Jezioro said a number of schools have been running the sport as a club for several years. More than 100 schools have committed to having a girls flag football team, he reported, including nearly all of Central’s West Suburban Conference rivals, although it’s not yet a conference sport.

Excitement is high, he related.

“A lot of our students have stopped me in the hall or after school to tell me that they’re looking forward to it,” he said.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean