Girls flag football on display once again

The Steelers continued their support of youth sports in the Pittsburgh area when they hosted their fourth free Girls Flag Football Jamboree.

Over 100 girls, grades 7-12, took part in the instructional event at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, the same facility used by the team.

The afternoon combined drill stations, skill development and breakout flag football games to give the players the knowledge they need to continue on their flag football journeys with their schools and teams, with former Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch on hand talking to the girls and providing encouragement.

"It's awesome to see how girl's flag football has taken off," said Mike Marchinsky, the Steelers senior manager of marketing events. "We've done two-day football camps since 2009, and there have always been girls coming to the camps, but they were vastly outnumbered by the boys that were in those camps. But the girls that were there were just as talented as the boys when they're running and catching and throwing. So, I always knew there was a big interest in having girls only camps and girls' football. There were girls playing in flag programs in the communities around Western Pennsylvania and all over the state.

"Now that there's a more concerted effort to give them an elevated opportunity, it's very fulfilling because, I'm a girl dad, too. To see it have such a big impact on people is really special."

Since the Steelers began their girls flag football program over a year ago, the growth and development of the participants at the camps and the sport in general has taken huge leaps and bounds. The girls continue to grow in the sport, many of them coming from backgrounds of playing other sports and quickly adapting their skills to flag football.

"I think they surprise themselves that they are as good as they are when they do certain football movements and things," said Marchinsky. "And I think they surprise themselves on how much fun it is. They have been exposed to basketball, they've been exposed to soccer, they've been exposed to even flag football in gym classes and things like that. But it hasn't been notched up to a point where the focus is on them. You kind of dip your toes in the water a little bit and this is a chance to really dive in. The looks on their faces are of excitement and surprise because I think that they see an opportunity, how fun it is, and they see how good they are and can be."

The team is working to encourage high schools to sanction girls flag football, which is the case in some states, but not Pennsylvania. The Steelers provided flag belts, footballs, and other support to help launch the program last year. This year it has grown from six to 24 teams participating,.

"We're excited and really looking forward to this thing taking off and hopefully becoming a sanctioned sport in a couple of years," said Marchinsky. "We're ready to get this thing rolling."

The Pittsburgh Steelers hosted a Girl's Flag Football Jamboree at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on Sunday, February 26