Beginning this fall, the Alabama High School Athletic Association will sponsor girls flag football as an officially sanctioned sport. The move was finalized at the AHSAA’s conference for principals and athletics directors.

Popularizing girls flag football has been an initiative of Nike and the NFL for some time — specifically the Atlanta Falcons — and the AHSAA said both organizations were integral in getting the sport off the ground in Alabama.

“After discussions with the Atlanta Falcons for several months, we are excited to be adding this girls’ sport for our membership. We think it will grow rapidly,” said Alvin Briggs, who the chief executive overseeing football for the AHSAA. “The AHSAA appreciates the support, commitment and funding being provided by the Atlanta Falcons, the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation and NFL FLAG.”

As an endorsement of how legitimately the AHSAA will treat flag football, the inaugural state championship will be held in conjunction with the Super 7 — a 3-day event crowning the state champions in all seven of Alabama’s high school football classifications — in Birmingham this December.

While playing opportunities in 11-man football will always be limited for girls, women and girls are an important growth area for the entire sport of football. More women than ever are entering the coaching ranks, and the number of women identifying themselves as football fans has been rising.

Expanding opportunities for girls to gain first-hand experience with football will only develop more fans and participants of the 11-man game, which is good for football’s long-term health.

Alabama is the fifth state to make girls flag football a sanctioned high school sport, following Georgia, Florida, Alaska and Nevada. The NAIA also officially sanctioned women’s flag football last year.

And while it’s one thing for Alaska and Nevada to sanction girls’ flag football at the high school level, it’s entirely another for Florida, Georgia and Ala-freaking-bama to give this growing sport its official endorsement.

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National columnist - Zach joined the staff in 2012...and has been attempting to improve Doug and Scott's writing ability ever since (to little avail). Outside of football season, you can find him watching the San Antonio Spurs reading Game of Thrones fan theories.