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The Founding Gridiron Women and Girls of PSD

three PSD Girls' Flag football players

During the 2023-24 school year, all three of the Puyallup School District comprehensive high schools made history by launching their first-ever competitive girls' flag football programs as a new winter season sport.

In October 2023, the Seattle Seahawks provided a total of $117,000 in grant money to 30 high schools in the Puget Sound Region. The grant helped the schools launch girls' flag football programs by covering their start-up costs, including uniforms and equipment. All three PSD high schools, Emerald Ridge (ERHS), Puyallup (PHS), and Rogers (RHS), were among the schools that received the funding.

PSD Director of Instructional Leadership, Athletics, Health, and Fitness Jim Meyerhoff says the district was fortunate to receive the funding, adding another opportunity for girls across the community. 

"Flag football is the second fastest-growing sport for girls in the U.S., right behind wrestling," Meyerhoff said. "This is an incredible opportunity for our girls' student-athletes to participate in a sport that is rapidly growing and may become a WIAA-sanctioned sport next year."

Meet the Head Coaches

the three girls' flag football coaches at Puyallup, Rogers and Emerald Ridge high schools

(L-R) - Mikayla Tanis (Puyallup High Head Coach), Braylie Jeffers (Rogers Head Coach), and Ayanna Arceneaux (Emerald Ridge Head Coach).

Puyallup High Girls' Flag Football Head Coach Mikayla Tanis is a 2012 PHS graduate, former powderpuff football participant as a student, and daughter of a coach of Puyallup High Boys' Football—making her a second-generation football coach. She mentioned growing up around the sport and being part of it makes it a dream to pass her knowledge to younger generations.

"Honestly, it's been an amazing experience," Tanis said. "Coming back to my hometown and the school I graduated from and being able to be a leader and someone that these girls can talk to and have a place to go is one of the best feelings ever."

RHS Head Coach Braylie Jeffers, another multi-generation football coach and former powderpuff football player, says leading the team of the program's inaugural season was an opportunity she couldn't turn down.

"Football has been in my life for a really long time," Jeffers said. "When I heard there was an opportunity to coach flag (football), I jumped on it because it sounded like it was going to be a blast."

For ERHS Head Coach Ayanna Arceneaux, watching her brother play in the NFL and Canadian Football League ignited her passion to lead the program. 

"I've always been intrigued about it," Arceneaux said. "With this being the first year, the opportunity presented itself, and I wanted to make sure I went through the door that was open for me."

Ayanna Arceneaux talking to the team after practice

Emerald Ridge Head Coach Ayanna Arceneaux talking to the team after practice. 

For the Love of the Game

PHS Senior Gracie Williams says flag football is her first athletics activity since 7th grade, and that her love for the sport was a no-brainer to join. 

"I've always wanted to play, "Williams said. "I played flag football in elementary school just for fun, but I never had a school option to do that. I was very excited when this came out. Football is a very adaptive sport where you have all of these positions to play."

Two Puyallup Flag Football players running scrimmage plays

Puyallup High Girls' Flag Football Practice at Sparks Stadium

RHS Senior Raygun Klippert remembered that when Rogers announced the program's launch, she saw it as an exciting challenge.

"It was something brand new," Klippert said. I have always loved watching football with my dad, and being able to play sounded like such a fun thing to do."

ERHS Senior Madesynne Bruno says she enjoys the sport's energy.  

"I enjoy playing football with my brother," Bruno said. "I like throwing the football with the neighborhood kids. I've always had an interest in football, and when I heard that we had an opportunity at the school, I just went for it."

Emerald Ridge Girls' Flag Football Practice

Emerald Ridge Girls' Flag Football Practice at ERHS.

Setting a New Trend

With football historically known as a sport for men, the players and coaches are not only tackling stereotypes but are paving the way for future generations of girls in the district.

ERHS Senior Kailey Verhoeven expressed a sense of pride in breaking barriers for upcoming classes. 

"I feel honored," Verhoeven said. "Everyone is looking up to us, especially with being a senior and the younger classes watching. They can keep future seasons going, especially with elementary kids to see if they want to play."

RHS Senior Zada Starks expressed that she hopes this opportunity encourages and uplifts girls.

"We show that women are capable and do not shy away from the spotlight," Starks said. "We have learned to challenge each other. I have learned to advocate for myself and the other girls around me as we deserve as much support and recognition as any other."

A girls' flag football player about to catch a ball.

Rogers High School Girls' Flag Football Practice at RHS.

The Future of Girls' Flag Football

While girls' flag football continues to grow in Washington State, it's popularity is also growing around the world, as women's flag football will officially become a sport at the Summer Olympics.

Coach Tanis mentioned, "It (football) has always been a guy thing, but women and girls like to throw football. It's huge that it's being offered in high school now because that can open up doors later on—potentially scholarships and playing in college."

Coach Arceneaux added, "Just starting at the high school level and earning scholarships now is amazing. Flag football in high schools designated for girls shows that we can pursue the same things guys can as well."