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April 24, 2014

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School district OKs adding girls’ flag football to club lineup

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The Clark County School District on Thursday approved adding girls' flag football as a high school club sport, and teams could start playing as early as March.

Club sports do not fall under the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association, the governing body for high school sports, but if enough girls join, flag football could be sanctioned in the future.

Girls' flag football could be a solution to any potential Title IX issues the district might face. Clark County is reviewing its compliance with the national statute requiring equal opportunity for boys and girls to educational programs, including sports, that receive federal financial assistance.

Ray Mathis, the district's executive director of instructional support and student activities, said the district conducts surveys to determine what sports are of most interest to girls. In the most recent survey, conducted in 2006, Mathis said, flag football edged lacrosse as the sport with the highest interest.

"We are constantly looking at Title IX issues and we're waiting on the completion of our own compliance survey to see where we stand," Mathis said. "If we were to add a girls sport and, if this club sport is successful, we can make a smooth transition to it becoming a regular sport."

Silverado senior Nikki Johnson, who was picked by the NFL to promote high school flag football in Nevada, made a presentation to school district athletic officials detailing the need for and interest in the sport. She said recreational girls flag football leagues have nearly 2,000 participants in Southern Nevada.

Flag football already is a sanctioned sports for girls in Alaska and Florida as well as in Mexico and Canada.

"Alaska and Florida are already getting a huge turnout for their teams, and we think it can be big in Nevada, too," Johnson said.

The five-on-five flag football games will be played at a neutral field, possibly All-American Park at Buffalo Drive and Oakey Boulevard. Players will have to register online and pay a fee likely between $85 and $110 to cover uniforms, use of fields, officials and insurance.

Palo Verde Athletic Administrator Bill Keairnes said his school has never conducted a survey regarding interest in flag football. He said he thinks lacrosse would be more popular at his school.

"I'm not really sure if flag football is going to be the answer," Keairnes said. "Most girls don't have a lot of exposure to the sport ... And if it's being played in the spring, I don't know that it wouldn't do much more than draw athletes away from track and field."

Under ideal situations, Mathis said, it could take up to two years to add a new sanctioned sport, and these are far from ideal conditions. The district is looking to cut 15 percent from next school year's athletic budget and selling a new sport could prove difficult, he said.

"We are facing some serious, major budget cuts, and it's difficult to talk about adding a new sport when we're talking about cutting things everywhere else," Mathis said.

Jared Harmon can be reached at 990-8922 or [email protected].

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