Santa Barbara, San Marcos, and Dos Pueblos High Schools will all field girls flag football teams this season. | Credit: Courtesy Jaylon Letendre

High school girls’ flag football will be an official CIF sport next year, thanks in large part to Santa Barbara’s Friday Night Lights (FNL) youth flag football league ( and Jaylon Letendre, girls’ league director and a PE teacher at Foothill Elementary School.

Letendre started coaching flag football in the spring of 2019, when a group of girls wanted to try playing it in a league. Letendre was all for this idea and entered into the FNL co-ed league.

Jaylon Letendre keeps a photo wall in her home of teams she has coached | Credit: Courtesy Jaylon Letendre

Although there weren’t many girls playing, the team had a wonderful first season and proved that they could compete in a boy-dominated league. Since Letendre’s first flag football team, she has had increasing amounts of interest, having four teams in this last season of the co-ed league.

Letendre said, “It was just such an amazing experience to see these girls just being brave and trying something and learning a new sport.”

After noticing more girls on the all-boys team, Letendre had conversations with FNL directors Ted and Nevin Pallad about the possibility of an all-girls league.

Ted and Nevin thought the idea was awesome, as there were many girls that were interested in playing. There was enough interest to have an all-girls league and to even have enough teams.

This past summer, Letendre ran two all-girls clinics for two days each, with one in June and the other in July. The clinic had around 30 girls each day and invited girls to come and see what flag football was all about.

For this spring season of FNL, and with help from Ted and Nevin, there was an all-girls league. The league consisted of 12 teams with different divisions.

The divisions are divided by grade, with 2nd through 4th grade, 4th through 6th grade, and then 7th through 9th grade. 100 new girls came to learn how to play flag football, with an amazing group of coaches all working together to teach the girls the sport.

Credit: Courtesy Jaylon Letendre

“The fact that Friday Night Lights was willing to take this chance and this risk says a lot about them as an organization,” said Letendre. “They saw that these girls were wanting to learn and said, ‘Let’s try and see what happens.’”

“I’m really grateful for them going along with the crazy idea,” said Letendre.

When asked why she thinks so many girls are interested in flag football, Letendre said, “I think they like that it’s fast, and the skills involved with eye-hand coordination.”

She continued, “I think a lot of girls were looking for a new sport or looking for a sport. I think the newness to it brings a lot of people out.”

Even though Letendre is the coach, she credits the girls for being confident, willing, and not scared to grow into the space of a male-dominated sport.

“We’re learning to play the game; we’re learning to be teammates; we’re setting goals for ourselves as a team,” said Letendre.

The most important lesson Letendre hopes she has taught the girls is working hard and as a team, along with being confident and building each other up no matter what happens on the field. The girls have also taught Letendre many things as well, such as the latest TikTok trends, how she should be wearing her hair, and how to be more confident in herself and her abilities.

“I should be confident if they’re going to be confident in learning this new sport,” said Letendre.

The future of girls’ flag football is bright, with the sport being played all across the country. By spreading the news by word of mouth, Letendre hopes that there will be more and more girls coming to try it out.

This summer, Letendre and FNL are hosting two all-girls flag football camps to help girls that want to play in the fall. There are also three local high schools that are going to have teams, with Letendre being the assistant coach for San Marcos High School.

“It took that first group of 6th-grade girls, and I tell their moms all the time — the gift they gave me, me finding a sport that I love to coach, has been fantastic,” said Letendre. “Now I’m getting to share my love for that with these high school girls.”

Editor’s Note: Courtney Poon contributed additional reporting to this story. 


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