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This July, the country’s top flag football teams will assemble in Canton, Ohio, for NFL FLAG’s annual All 32 Tournament. It’s a big moment, complete with national broadcast coverage.

And all eyes will be on the girls’ bracket.

Surprised? Don’t be. Football is no longer a male-dominated, exclusively full-contact sport. Young women are now on the gridiron, some playing at an elite level, through the explosive growth of flag.

They’re part of a movement with more than 20 million participants in 100-plus countries. Flag football’s draw is that it opens doors for those who have been on the sidelines: girls, women, people with disabilities, and families who can’t afford full-contact equipment. Simply put, flag is the most inclusive, accessible version of America’s most popular sport.

It’s football for all.

That’s why Canton — birthplace of the NFL — is the perfect place to showcase young standout players of all genders.

However, the tournament brings an equity issue to the forefront. Players on the boys’ teams will head home with options, including state-sanctioned varsity football.

It’s a different story for the girls. Despite its popularity, girls’ flag has been adopted as an official high-school sport in only nine states. Ohio has not yet joined them, but there is a groundswell of young women hoping for and anticipating this historic opportunity.

The stakes matter. Colleges are recruiting — today — for their women’s flag football programs, offering scholarships that didn’t exist a few years ago. Countries are adding players to their national teams for the sport’s debut in the 2028 Summer Olympics.

Girls who can play varsity are in great position to take advantage of these opportunities. Those who can’t, aren’t. That’s reason enough to fully sanction girls’ flag in Ohio.

If you’re still not sold, look at the demand.

A girls’ league piloted by the Cleveland Browns and Northeast Ohio Flag Football expanded from nine high school teams to 30 in 2023, its second year of operation. That number could double in 2024. Berea-Midpark High School had so many student-athletes express interest for April’s kickoff that they’re considering adding a junior varsity team.

Another pilot in the Cincinnati area is on a similar trajectory. Six all-girls high schools sponsored by the Bengals and USA Football have full rosters for this spring’s inaugural season.

In the United States, around 500,000 girls under the age of 17 participate in flag. Nearly 21,000 girls competed in organized high school leagues in 2022-23, representing an 86% jump over four years — a rate that will rise exponentially as other states get on board.

Ohio has a chance to make a statement.

The influential Ohio High School Coaches Association made its voice heard in February when board members held an impromptu vote, unanimously approving girls’ flag football as an OHSCA sport, clearing a critical hurdle before the Ohio High School Athletic Association takes up the debate.

Ohioans can make approval undeniable. If your high school doesn’t offer flag, speak up. When girls’ clubs launch in your town — and they will — be first in line to try out. Spread the word. Coach a team. Become a ref. Share your story.

It’s personal to me. Our son Taron Vincent flourished as a defensive tackle at the Ohio State University. His playing career started with flag. Eventually, he transitioned to boys’ tackle. Varsity, scholarship offers, opportunities to play professionally and transferable life skills all followed.

My daughters also played flag, but without options as student-athletes, their paths stopped there.

Thankfully, times have changed.

By giving young women the opportunity to play high school flag, the Buckeye State would send a message to families like mine that football — and all that comes with it — is indeed for all.

Troy Vincent Sr. is the executive vice president of football operations for the National Football League and a five-time Pro Bowler. He also serves as co-chair of Vision28, leading flag football’s inclusion in the 2028 Olympics.