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Tuesday, October 4, 2022
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XFL Partners With Under the Lights Flag Football


The XFL has announced a partnership with Under the Lights Flag Football (“Under the Lights”), an international youth flag football league for boys and girls from kindergarten through 12th grade. | Image by XFL

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The Under the Lights youth flag football league has announced a partnership with the recently-revived Dallas-based XFL to promote youth involvement in one of the fastest-growing sports in the world. Flag football debuted at the 2022 World Games in Birmingham, Alabama, earlier this year and is one of the new sports under consideration for inclusion in the Olympic Games.

“Flag football is a great sport that is non-contact yet still teaches the game in a responsible and fun manner,” said Under the Lights Chairman Eric Beach. “We think this is a natural alignment with the XFL.”

The partnership between the two leagues is already showing promise. The XFL, a professional football minor league, and Under the Lights will co-host the first-of-its-kind Youth Flag Football World Championships in San Antonio, Texas, in December.

The sport of flag football has grown exponentially in recent years. Beach said that Under the Lights has experienced annual growth of about 60 percent and now counts more than 80,000 athletes internationally. Unlike traditional American football, the sport is more inclusive of women and girls as well as boys who otherwise would not participate in contact sports.

“We’ve built the XFL to be a league deeply-rooted in culture, passion, and opportunity. We’re excited to be partnering with Under the Lights, who are committed to our shared belief that inclusion and empowerment can not only advance the game of football but also further bridge the gap between drive and accessibility,” said Dany Garcia, Chairwoman and Co-owner of the XFL.

Under the Lights includes leagues specifically for girls, while other teams also compete in a co-ed format. Beach said that a changing focus at the NFL level relating to tackling techniques and other safety measures translates to skills players learn in flag football, which stresses speed and agility over brute strength. The focus on these types of skills has led to more inclusion of young people who might otherwise not have the opportunity.

“Everybody can give effort and support one another; it doesn’t matter if you are a boy or a girl, everyone is respected on a level playing field,” Beach said. “These are traits that we try to teach our children, and that is what flag football represents for me, and I think it is going to carry even further into the high school and collegiate level, along with its going to potentially be in the Olympics in 2028. There is something for everyone in flag football.”

The National Federation of High School Associations (NFHSA) first established flag football leagues in Florida during the 2002-03 school year. Today, more than 280 Florida high schools participate in the sport. Similar results have been seen in other states, including Texas.

“I think that Texas is going to be a pioneer in this sport,” Beach said. “That’s why we are doing the tournament down in San Antonio. There are three XFL teams in Texas, and of course, you have the Dallas Cowboys. I think people realize that where there is a big-time football appetite, there is also going to be a big flag football appetite.”

Under the Lights hosts numerous teams representing age groups from first through eighth grade in North Texas. The XFL will begin its first season since dissolving due to COVID-19 in February 2023.          

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