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    SF Gay Flag Football Becomes More Inclusive as More Women Discover the Sport

    By John Chen–

    Football historically is a man’s sport where strength, toughness, physicality and athletic prowess are the foundations for success. The sheer brutality of head on collisions, take downs and blindsides is cringeworthy for those merely watching on the sidelines and at home. So why do women play football? Because it’s an art form, an adrenaline rush and an addiction!

    Here in the Bay Area, men and women oftentimes compete against one another playing flag football in the San Francisco Gay Flag Football League (SFGFFL), a no tackling but still physical variation of football. To the untrained eye and those armchair quarterbacks, flag football is just a handsy version of the “real” game, until they get hit hard without any protection. Man or woman, it doesn’t matter. Everyone and anyone playing is fair game as long as it’s within the rules and code of conduct.

    So, what are the differences between men and women football players? What is it like for women playing against men? Michele Ta-a has been playing football with the San Francisco Womxn’s Flag Football League (SFWFFL) since 2014 and absolutely loves the sport. Recently, Ta-a joined SFGFFL and has been competing with and against men because she wanted to continue to progress her own skills such as “moves” as well as increasing her football IQ. According to Ta-a, there are only a few differences between men and women players, one being that men tend to possess more in-depth knowledge of the game and implement more complex schemes or plays like a form of art.

    Nate Torrance, a tall and strong strapping young man, played football for as long as he can remember because football is an adrenaline rush and a way of life. When he first competed against women in SFGFFL, Torrance was somewhat tentative, but he quickly found out that many of the women were not tentative and were just as aggressive and physical, if not more so than some of the guys playing. On the field, once the center hikes the ball, it’s on! There’s no holding back, man or woman.

    Juliet Rubio started playing football in SFWFFL only a couple of years ago and is now addicted. Petite in physical stature, Rubio learned to use her size to her advantage, navigating through much larger and taller men in SFGFFL. She told me for the San Francisco Bay Times: “Although some men are faster and stronger, women sometimes are more aggressive and fearless, but that may be due to the differences in the blocking rules for the leagues. SFWFFL allows more physical play.”

    Current SFGFFL Commissioner and quarterback, Billy Paiz, Jr., agrees that many women players are more fearless, especially when they charge at him hard, often forcing him into a mad scramble. Paiz believes that having women in SFGFFL is good for the league and the game because women bring a different perspective to football. Although recruiting women to play with men has been challenging over the years, Paiz says their current partnership with the women’s league has helped with breaking down some of the barriers and myths that women can’t compete with men.

    Current SFWFFL Commissioner Scheherazade Hill is an aggressive rusher, charging the quarterbacks without abandon. In fact, not even halfway through the SFGFFL season, she has already recorded more sacks than any of her male counterparts. Hill plays an integral part in recruiting women to play alongside and against men, a challenge she is more than willing to take on.

    As her women’s league continues to grow (a whopping 170+ players have registered for this upcoming season), Hill believes that working with the guys can only strengthen both leagues and bring a new level of passion to football. At the end of the day, it’s not about who is better, faster, smarter or stronger. It’s about building a diverse and cohesive LGBT football community where both men and women come together to play and share the game they love.

    For More Information

    San Francisco Gay Flag Football League on Facebook
    Online at http://www.sfgffl.org/

    San Francisco Womxn’s Flag Football League
    https://www.sfwffl.org/
    SFWFFL on Facebook
    @sf_wffl on Instagram
    Contact: commissioner.sfwffl@gmail.com

    John Chen, a UCLA alumnus and an avid sports fan, has competed as well as coached tennis, volleyball, softball and football teams.