The Student News Site of Enloe Magnet High School

Enloe Eagle's Eye

The Student News Site of Enloe Magnet High School

Enloe Eagle's Eye

The Student News Site of Enloe Magnet High School

Enloe Eagle's Eye

Reflecting on Enloe Women’s Flag Football’s Inaugural Season

Reflecting on Enloe Women’s Flag Football’s Inaugural Season

Rarely is it that a new sport enters the field of Wake County athletics, and even more rarely do athletes from different sports compete together. Women’s flag football created both of these opportunities at Enloe High School. The first sport added since the addition of lacrosse two decades ago, flag football quickly became a vibrant community of driven athletes both at Enloe and across the county, despite their season consisting of only three weekend tournaments.

Flag football is a non-contact version of American football, meaning the tackling, blocking, and diving seen in football are all excluded from the sport. Instead, players wear flags attached to their waists by a belt, and the ball is dead when a flag is pulled off of a ball-carrier.

Creating the Team

The Enloe women’s flag football team began practice in the middle of January after the Carolina Panthers granted $50k to Wake County to fund a 19-school flag football program. Athletes from Apex High School petitioned for the program after the NFL team sponsored flag football in Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools.

Every inaugural team needs an inaugural coach, and Gregory Strickland was eager to fill this role at Enloe. Coach Strickland has been coaching for 21 years, 18 of which have been at Enloe. He also coaches men’s football and men’s golf at the school.

“When Coach Womble told me we were getting it, I looked at him and I said, ‘Well, of course I’m coaching it, right?’,” said Strickland.

Taking on this role as coach of the women’s flag football team demanded more than just the usual corrections and play-calling. Because it was the inaugural season of the sport, Strickland was also responsible for filing all the paperwork, creating practice schedules, and fitting flag football practice into the already busy after-school sports world at Enloe.

 “It really has been like building something from the ground up,” said Strickland.

Building the team as an institution is one thing, but building a community was also necessary for women’s flag football. “The first day they were scared. They didn’t know what to expect. They didn’t know me—some of them did, most of them didn’t, but [now] they’re out here having a blast,” said Strickland.

Strength in Diversity

Part of the team’s strength lies in its diversity. Because each player on the team came from different sports backgrounds, they were each able to contribute strength and strategy from their respective experiences. Strickland says this is what makes them “tough.”

“We have what Enloe is. We have a very diverse group of girls from all backgrounds, all grades. We have ladies who are varsity lettermen in multiple other sports. We have some who have never played a sport a day in their life. They’re all able to be molded together and they’re all accepted here, and one of the reasons I think that is is because it’s Enloe. I think that’s the best part of this group and this dynamic, that it’s so diverse,” said Strickland.

Strickland said that the soccer players on the team had great footwork that translated to flag football, along with skill in dodging and route-running. The softball and lacrosse players he worked with were apt at passing and running plays, and basketball players could make quick transitions from offense to defense. Finally, as Strickland put it, track athletes understood “Hey, I need to start running fast.”

Words from the Players

Ruth Rick is a senior and captain on the flag football team. She was the starting quarterback on the team, and is also shortstop and a captain on the softball team at Enloe.

“I’ve already got some of the arm strength and accuracy built up. That made it a lot easier transitioning to QB because I already have some of the muscles and I’m just used to throwing things,” said Rick.

Rick also believes that by building up her arm strength during the softball off-season by playing flag football, she will be a more athletic softball player this spring.

“I’m hoping to be able to throw a softball 100 miles an hour after this,” she said half-jokingly.

Instead of their differences sowing division among the team, it made Enloe flag football stronger. Senior Keelyn McCabe, inside receiver and captain, described the team dynamic. Her usual sport is lacrosse, where she plays midfield and is a captain on the school team.

“I think we have a really good team environment. Everyone loves it. Everyone’s super motivated, and our quarterback is amazing. We have some really good receivers and some really good people on defense,” said McCabe.

Leaving an Impact

For the players, trying out a new sport may have been a decision motivated by fun in Enloe’s powderpuff game in September, or a childhood dream of playing football. For many, this season was about more than just that, however. It was about building something new and leaving an impact on a whole community for future generations.

“I’ve got two little girls, twin daughters, and I want them to see that there are opportunities like this and there’s things that they can do, and things that they can look forward to. Just being a part of it, part of something new, something that’s probably overdue,” said Strickland.

Strickland said that the most important thing for people to grasp was the joy that flag football brought these athletes, plainly visible on their faces in every practice and game, win or lose. “This is the cool part about it, to see this,” he said, gesturing to the players warming up on the field around him.

Flag football’s first season, only three tournaments long, left an impact. An impact on a community, an impact on a coach, and an impact on every athlete that participated in it.

“Congratulate every single one of them. It doesn’t even have to be just the Enloe ones. Anyone that they know from any school who played. These 20 or 25 had no idea what they were getting into, but they took a risk and they came out and they did it,” Strickland said.

“The joy that this has brought them is what has made me proud as a coach.”

Leave a Comment
About the Contributor
Elizabeth Sobel
Elizabeth Sobel, News Editor
(She/her) Elizabeth is a senior at Enloe returning to the paper as this year's News Editor! As a member of Enloe's Symphony Orchestra, she spends a lot of time practicing the harp. In her free time, she enjoys painting, perusing the halls of the North Carolina Museum of Art and reading about the latest archeological discoveries.
Donate to Enloe Eagle's Eye

Your donation will support the student journalists of Enloe Magnet High School, allowing us to cover our annual website costs. We are extremely grateful for any contribution, big or small!

More to Discover
Donate to Enloe Eagle's Eye

Comments (0)

All Enloe Eagle's Eye Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *