It hasn’t taken long for flag football to establish itself in Section V.
Sanctioned by New York State as a varsity girls sport just two years ago, there are 31 official teams preparing for the 2024 spring season and the Gananda Blue Panthers are one of those teams.
“As a District, we have always offered additional athletic opportunities for our students to engage in various extracurricular activities if we have had the means to do so,” said Athletic Director John Tichacek. “We have listened to our students' voices and responded to their interests.”
Mr. Tichacek said he was approached last spring by a group of Gananda girls who were not playing a spring sport and expressed interest in playing Flag Football. They indicated that they had seen other districts with teams and wondered if Gananda could do the same.
“We know the benefits and protective factors of being involved in extracurricular activities,” said Tichacek, pointing to physical health, stress reduction, enhanced self-esteem, social connections and a sense of belonging. “Athletics can be that protection against poor choices and negative influence. If we can keep more of our students involved in athletics, that's a great thing”
Tichacek said a Program Addition Committee that included district administration, coaches, students and parents was convened to consider the proposal. Students were surveyed showing that 18 girls, most of whom do not play a spring sport, showed interest. The Gananda Board of Education was presented with the potential of adding flag football at its Jan. 10 meeting, and on Jan. 24, the Board approved the addition of a coaching position.
Those who showed interest in playing are excited to formally play a game they’ve grown up watching.
“Without much opportunity for us to play this sport when we were younger, introducing it as a high school sport will bring in a lot of athletes interested in playing,” said one Gananda student. “Flag football combines elements of various sports, making it inclusive for anyone who wants to play and different from other sports that are played in the spring.”
Currently, Gananda offers track and field, softball and lacrosse for female athletes in the spring season. Our ability to offer programs and levels is based on student participation. We are willing to provide a variety of programs, but to be able to offer the programs students have to come out to play.
In the past Gananda has been able to offer JV and varsity softball and lacrosse. Student interest in these sports have waned to the point that softball and lacrosse are now merged teams between Gananda and Marion. While we would prefer to offer Gananda-only teams we recognize that shared teams are allowing us to offer sports that would otherwise be canceled. We want our students to be engaged and active and we will continue to explore ways to maximize participation.
The flag football team kicks off its inaugural eight-game season with a home game on Tuesday, March 26, vs. Williamson.