Today marks the 36th anniversary of National Girls and Women in Sports Day, celebrating girls and women's achievements in sports. Over the past few years, there has been increasing visibility on women in football. Last summer, the Boston Renegades, a women's football team, won their sixth national championship. Vanderbilt goalkeeper Sarah Fuller, made history as the first woman to play in a Southeastern conference, Power Five football game. In December of 2021, Jennifer King became the first Black woman to serve as a position coach in the NFL. For many, their love of football started at a young age.
That's the case for the 10u Girl Patriots team as they prepare for the NFL Flag Championship in Las Vegas during the Pro Bowl. The team, based in the North Shore, is coached by Terrell Patterson. He first got into coaching at the high school level and transitioned into girl's flag football when his daughter was old enough to play. At that time, he noticed a difference in how some coaches would treat young girls in the sport. It prompted him to act.
"I wanted my daughter to learn the right way and not be treated or coached differently," Patterson said.
In his leadership role, Patterson is inspired by his team. He says it's been incredible to see their athletic development which, coupled with their humble character and willingness to learn, makes them prime for success. In fact, they are the 2021 Boston Regional Champions and won their age group to secure a spot in Vegas.
The team hosts tryouts each year and competes under the umbrella of New England Flag Football (NEFFL). There are 10 players on the team all under the age of 10.
Assistant coach, Tony Ramos' daughter is the quarterback on the team. He designs a comprehensive and complex offensive playbook that Patterson describes as a "high-school style [offense]".
On this National Girls and Women in Sports Day, the Regional Champions will be preparing for the NFL Flag Championship Tournament, featuring two other Patriots affiliated teams, the 12uG Athena Athletics Gold, and the 17uG Athena Athletics. Each team will compete in three pool games before the playoffs begin on Saturday.
Coach Patterson said that this day is special and his advice for young girls looking to get into the sport is simple.
"Commit to it and do it. Don't let any of the stigmas create barriers to the sport of football," Patterson said.
This tournament is a testament to the growth of flag football and the opportunities it provides to girls interested in the sport. Last year, 15 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) colleges kicked off their inaugural women's flag football seasons. Patterson continues to be encouraged by what he sees and is advocating for more.
"For a lot of these girls, this is their sport." "I hope to see more Massachusetts high-schools offer opportunities for them to play flag football," he said.