AMBRIDGE – Girls flag football has proven to be more than just a passing fancy.
The sport appears here to stay at the high school level.
That’s apparent in the second year of the league the Pittsburgh Steelers helped start for local schools. Participation and interest continue to grow, especially at Ambridge.
The Bridgers finished last season with fewer than 10 girls, but have seen their roster double this year for the 5-on-5 format.
“Last year, we struggled a little bit since we were just starting. We were one of the smallest teams,” Ambridge coach Felicia Mycyk said. “This year, I have 17 girls on the team.”
Mycyk has been at forefront of establishing a girls flag football league. A longtime football player in various leagues and a former Ambridge high school football team assistant coach in the fall, she worked with the Pittsburgh Steelers to help get the league going last year.
“I have been coaching at Ambridge for a few years and this team gives an opportunity for girls who maybe had never played a sport before to try something,” said Mycyk, who coaches the Bridgers boys and girls track and field teams in the spring as well. “We have girls on the team who play traditional sports, too. It just connects the girls to each other. When you’re shoulder to shoulder on a field working toward the same goal it’s just different than when you’re sitting in a classroom with your classmates.”
“It’s very awesome,” Ambridge junior Carla Sanchez said. “It’s nice to see girls have more things to do. It feels so awesome to be part of this. It’s a great experience.”
The players are thrilled to have an opportunity to play competitive football against high school teams from around the area. Locally, Aliquippa fields two teams, while Moon and West Allegheny also have squads. They all play in the Western Division, along with Sto-Rox as well.
“I love it. I wanted to play football since I was in elementary school, but was never able to. I was so excited when I learned about this team,” Ambridge sophomore Kaitlyn Desrochers said. “The team dynamic we have is very amazing. We work so well together. There’s no drama. Coach pulls us together and we have a great team I am so proud to be on.”
“I grew up playing backyard football with my brother and all his friends. I never thought I’d have a chance to play in a league and be part of such a great group,” Ambridge freshman Mackenzie Reeves said. “I think it’s a great opportunity and whoever has the chance to play should definitely do it. It’s a great sport filled with a lot of great people. It’s a really fun experience.”
The sport, which is just at a club level now, could one day grow into a PIAA sport. A similar league began last year in the Philadelphia area, supported by the Philadelphis Eagles. There are 17 other teams spread out among three more divisions in Western Pennsylvania. Last year, only six teams total played in the league.
“The support we receive from the Steelers is absolutely huge,” Mycyk said.
Before the start of this season, all teams got to go to Acrisure Stadium and take a tour of the facility, receive their Nike unforms in the locker room and get a chance to work out on the football field in some controlled scrimmages.
“It was an awesome experience,” Reeves said. “It was really fun to go behind the scenes and be one of the first people to see the new museum that they have at the stadium.”
“It was amazing. It was such a great experience,” Desrochers said. “They pulled out all the stops to make sure we had a good time and a unique experience.”
Ambridge was on the road the last two weeks, but returns home to Moe Rubenstein Stadium on May 7. It’s a Pink Out day as well, which is close to Mycyk, who overcame cancer of her own last year. The team hopes to raise funds for Cancer Bridges, an organization that supports those impacted by cancer through a variety of free programs and services. The Steelers’ media team will be on hand for the day as will Steelers mascot Steely McBeam.
“We’re just living life and enjoying it the best we can,” Mycyk said.
The Bridgers look to return home on May 7 and pick up a win in front of their home fans.
“From the open gyms we had in like January, there’s been a lot of progression from most of the girls, including myself,” Reeves said. “I know I wasn’t the best, starting off. But, we all put in effort to be where we are now and we look to keep getting better.”
“I am so excited for the rest of the season and to go out on the field and play our games,” Desrochers said. “Watching our team grow and improve throughout the season is what I am looking forward to the most.”
Originally Posted in the Beaver County Times