Addition of flag football at 2028 Olympics a ‘really big deal’ for local players

by Sports Staff


Some of Manitoba’s young flag football players say they’re excited about potentially one day representing Canada on one of sport’s biggest stages.

Women’s players in provincial system excited about possible opportunity

CBC News


A person runs to get a ball

Cassidy MacPherson, 15, says the addition of flag football at the 2028 Olympics could create a lot of excitement and help get more young women and girls involved in the sport. (Randall McKenzie/CBC)

Some of Manitoba’s young flag football players say they’re excited about potentially one day representing Canada on one of sport’s biggest stages. 

Flag football is among a handful of sports added to the 2028 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.

“I would love to play flag football in the Olympics,” said Cassidy MacPherson, who is part of the Manitoba flag football program.

“I think that it’s a great opportunity for girls, especially now that that’s an option, now girls can have a reason to go far for football.”

The non-contact game requires minimal equipment and has a lower barrier to entry, and the Olympic competition will feature both a men’s and women’s division, which has young players in the province hopeful about the opportunity to extend their time in the sport beyond high school and university.

MacPherson, 15, has been playing flag and tackle football for many years. The tackle version of the sport has given her the opportunity to meet a lot of women and introduce them to the less-contact-heavy version of the game, she said.

MacPherson understands why some may be intimidated by the physical nature of tackle football, but says flag is a really strong alternative.

Knowing that the sport will be featured in an upcoming Olympic Games and is being added at universities helps her see a path forward in the game, she said.

“Now we can grow up and still be able to play, because as an athlete, I would love to play football for the rest of my life,” she said.

Teammate Rebecca Coates said while Manitoba does have a women’s flag football program, the numbers are small.

She hasn’t played tackle football since she was 12, but she doesn’t mind leaving it behind. 

“I’m not saying tackle football is less fun; it’s really fun,” Coates said. “It’s just, this is another sport to play in the off-season of tackle, so you’re still playing football without getting hurt.”

Person stands and waits for a ball

Rebecca Coates, 15, says playing flag football is just as much fun as its tackle counterpart. (Randall McKenzie/CBC)

Provincial growth

Jon Franklin, a provincial and national team flag football coach who has been involved with the sport in Manitoba for a decade, said there’s been “phenomenal growth” in the province, with record-setting registration numbers for both indoor and outdoor leagues. 

There are close to 2,000 young people playing, with about 600 of them playing in the winter league, he said.

“It is definitely a male-dominated sport. It’s probably about 90 per cent males, 10 per cent females, but that’s changing,” he said. “There’s been a lot of emphasis in trying to get more girls playing.”

Football Manitoba is going to try to start a high school women’s program, he said.

“Other provinces have university-level women’s programs, and that’s something that Manitoba is working towards.”

From what Franklin has seen at the international level, Canada might be behind countries that put more focus on flag rather than tackle football.

“We played in an international tournament earlier this year, and the female players could definitely take on some of the top men’s players for sure. They’re so good,” he said. “And that’s where Canada’s trying to develop towards.”

a man in a football shirt.

Jon Franklin says flag football has skyrocketed in popularity, and he hopes in the next few years, the gap between men’s and women’s players can be smaller. (Randall McKenzie/CBC)

MacPherson hopes that flag football becoming an Olympic sport will inspire more young people to get involved with the game because of the opportunities it can bring.

“I think that it’s a really great opportunity for lots of people, even girls and guys, to play flag football and just grow from it, play tackle, play for other provinces and play for other countries,” she said. “I think it’s a really big deal that they’re making [it] into an Olympic sport.” 

Female flag footballers having fun, dream of competing at highest level

Featured VideoManitoba flag football players talk about the growth of the game and the possibility of one day competing in the sport at the Olympic level.

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