Flag Football Grows in Popularity Around Westchester

Somers-based Gridiron Partners is bringing the increasingly popular sport of flag football to local women and girls.

Flag football is having a major moment, something Gridiron Partners Inc. (gridironpartnersinc.com) co-founders Katie DiChiaro and Jennifer Kisslinger have seized upon. The duo created their own all-girls flag football league in 2018, soon expanding it to include women, offering clinics as well as travel and club programs. With flag football poised to become an Olympic sport, the NFL getting in on the action with its own league, and even local institutions like John Jay High School announcing an inaugural flag football girls varsity team, it’s easy to see why Gridiron Partners has steadily grown.

Despite its longevity (around since the 1960s), many are still unfamiliar with the sport. “Flag football is a non-contact sport where, instead of being tackled, you pull flags,” says DiChiaro. “It is a sport for everyone. If you can run, you can play flag football; if you can catch, you can play flag football; if you can throw, you can play flag football; and if you can’t do any of those things, we’d still find a job for you to do.”

Monica Healy of Cosmic Charlie’s Angels secures the ball as Erica Cosentino of the Innuendos defends.
Monica Healy of Cosmic Charlie’s Angels secures the ball as Erica Cosentino of the Innuendos defends.

As for the sport’s popularity, DiChiaro is not surprised. In fact, Gridiron Partners has grown from 30 players in 2018 to hundreds of members across the region. “I think flag football has become so popular because it’s within reach,” she says. “Tackle football is such an elite sport where very few people make it compared to the amount of people that play in the professional world…Flag football is also very novel for people.”

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Gridiron Partners has been riding this wave, with a summer program based in Somers, as well as an indoor facility and field used in Yorktown. The organization has also extended its Section 1 varsity youth program into tournaments for adult members, and plans to begin a travel program as well. This spring, Gridiron will hold a pickup league, perfect for those new to flag football. “It isn’t just a sport,” says DiChiaro. “It’s a place for these women to go to have that community, gain self confidence, gain new friends, and gain new experiences.”

The flag football team Looking to Score displays their championship rings.
The flag football team Looking to Score displays their championship rings.

For DiChiaro, much of this growth boils down to the sheer excitement and approachability of the sport. “There are so many different skills you can use, that everybody can find a place. It’s fun to watch, it’s fast paced, and it’s about accepting things you may not have known you can do and getting really excited about that,” says DiChiaro. “I also think flag football is the sport that requires the most teamwork, because if you don’t do your job, the play can very easily fall apart, so it fosters a sense of camaraderie. When these women play, they make friendships, they build trust, and they make that team work.”—PA

“When these women play, they make friendships, they build trust, and they make that team work.”
— Katie DiChiaro

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