KENMORE, New York – Freshman Sydney Yost’s bid to create a flag football program at her high school for girls already has its first supporter: NFL vice president Troy Vincent.

The former player visited Mount St. Mary’s Academy in suburban Buffalo, N.Y., this week to help Yost achieve a goal she and two of her classmates proposed in September and then outlined in a letter to him.

An avid Bills fan, Yost said she and her family started playing soccer outside for exercise during the pandemic. With few opportunities for girls to play the sport, Yost wondered if flag football might be an option.

“The theme we kept coming back to is that flag football needs to be an inclusive program. This is the main reason why we want to start one,” she wrote to Vincent. “It will enable women to succeed in a sport traditionally played by men.”

During his visit Wednesday, Vincent not only gave Yost and school officials advice on how to build the program, but also promised to attend the first game.

“I’ll be here,” said Vincent. “There will be a program here. I’m committed to it.”

His visit coincides with the NFL’s growing push to promote flag football, especially to girls and women, as professional sports leagues vie for new fans in the digital age.

On Friday, the league released a standardized manual for its 32 teams that includes steps to help schools establish flag football programs. With it comes the distribution of grants, which the NFL projects will cost about $9,000 a year per team to cover salaries for coaches, referees, equipment and other fees.

An estimated 20 million people play flag football in 100 countries, with about 600,000 in the United States. Six states have authorized girls’ soccer to be designated as a varsity sport, and another 20 have launched pilot programs. Efforts are also underway to introduce flag football at the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

The NFL is even switching to flag football, and the upcoming Pro Bowl will feature seven-on-seven games to replace the traditional full-contact AFC vs. NFC All-Star game after years of criticism for the quality of the game.

Vincent was impressed with the response of his two granddaughters to the NAIA flag football championships in Atlanta in May.

“My youngest granddaughter, she’s pointing at me, but I know she sees herself on the field,” Vincent said, noting that they’re used to attending NFL games. “She’s dating a young girl. So it was bringing them out to test and see what they could be like.”

Yost was impressed that her letter had led to Vincent’s visit. And classmate Hayley Koraszewski, who helped with the proposal, said: “I think it’s really good because you watch football on TV and you really want to be a part of it, but you can’t. So it includes everyone.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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