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Girls High School Flag Football Jamboree highlights sport's rapid growth

As part of the team's ongoing commitment to grow the game of football, the Philadelphia Eagles hosted their third annual Girls High School Flag Football Jamboree, presented by NovaCare Rehabilitation, at Lincoln Financial Field on Saturday, March 16.

"For Those About to Rock (We Salute You)" by AC/DC blasted through the southwest tunnel of Lincoln Financial Field as the Quakertown girls flag football team ran onto the field.

"It was so much fun," said Emma Whitley, a member of the Quakertown flag football team. "Being with my team, hearing the music, and seeing the lights, it was such a good vibe."

Forty other teams ran out of the tunnel at the third annual Eagles Girls High School Flag Football Jamboree, presented by NovaCare Rehabilitation. All 41 teams that attended Saturday's event are new participants in the 2024 Eagles Girls Flag Initiative supported by Gatorade, The Bellwether District, and Planet Fitness. Since its inaugural season in 2022, the league has grown from 16 teams to 92 across Philadelphia and South Jersey.

At the start of the day, teams who did not already have uniforms received customized Nike jerseys and shorts. Each team's uniforms were hung in either the Eagles' locker room, Temple football locker room, or the visitors' locker room. The girls used the locker rooms to get ready for their tunnel run out onto the field.

The teams ran out of the tunnel just like the Eagles do on gameday.
The teams ran out of the tunnel just like the Eagles do on gameday.

Along with receiving uniforms, teams were provided with a $3,000 stipend, Port-a-Fields provided by USA Football, and NFL Flag Kits to help them get started during their first season.

"It is truly inspiring when the girls get to meet an Eagles player and walk into this facility," said Erik Pedersen, head coach of Central Bucks East flag football. "When the Philadelphia Eagles are behind something like this, it means so much to every school in Pennsylvania and South Jersey."

On the field, teams were greeted by SWOOP and given the opportunity to take team and individual photos on the sideline.

Teams were then invited to the Hyundai Club, where players participated in a series of stations to raise the energy and excitement levels for the season.

Dawning their jerseys, the teams did a media day-like photoshoot, getting to experience what Eagles players do before every season. Players posed with footballs, sunglasses, and more football paraphernalia. There was also a 360-degree spinning video booth that was a favorite amongst the attendees.

While waiting for their turn at photos, a dance competition between Parkway Northwest and Vaux Big Picture High School stole the show. While they might be competitors on the field, the teams worked together to bring out the best dance moves to impress their coaches and the Eagles Cheerleaders.

The players geared up for their photoshoot.
The players geared up for their photoshoot.

After the photoshoot, players and coaches met with sports medicine experts from NovaCare Rehabilitation to learn about player safety, good sleeping habits for teenagers, and nutrition. Each participant also received two FLY:FWD sports bras through the Eagles' partnership with Operation Warm to ensure that each player is properly outfitted for competition this season.

Before wrapping up the festivities, teams heard from Eagles defensive end Tarron Jackson. 

"This is such a great event for the girls," Jackson said. "We want to let them know that we notice them and what they are doing is important. This shows that the organization is behind continuing to grow this league and sport."

Jackson's overall message to the girls was to find a routine that helps them improve, practice hard, and take care of their bodies before, during, and after games.

After watching a hype video, the players were surprised with a special pre-recorded message from quarterback Jalen Hurts.

Hurts, who has an all-female management team, touted the girls as trailblazers for being part of their school's first girls flag football teams and being a sign of empowerment for younger generations that will follow in their footsteps. With flag football making its Olympic debut in 2028, Hurts encouraged the girls to continue growing the game and to set goals like representing their country on the world's biggest stage. 

"I do this, and I know the Eagles do this, to empower females in this sport and provide them with an amazing opportunity," Pedersen said.

Jalen Hurts recorded a message for the football players.
Jalen Hurts recorded a message for the football players.

Players and coaches were treated to a catered lunch, where teams were able to mingle before they face each other on the field later this spring.

With the 2024 season about to get underway, the excitement level for the ever-growing sport of girls flag football is at an all-time high.

"I am so excited for the season; this is our first year playing," Whitley said. "Everybody is like family, and this was such a good time, like a dream come true."

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