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NFL comes to MSM to talk about bringing flag football to high schools


A freshmen retreat last fall began an idea to bring flag football to Mount St. Mary Academy.  That idea resulted in one of the National Football League’s top executives visiting the Kenmore high school to help champion the effort.

Troy Vincent, executive vice president of football operations for the NFL, spent much of Wednesday, Jan. 18 at the all-girls school on a listening tour as well an all-school assembly reporting back on what he had learned from the young women and their desire to bring football to the academy.

Troy Vincent make a point during the Mount St. Mary Academy all-school assembly. Seated from left are Haley Karaszewski, Kaylee Cuddihy, Sydney Yost, and Principal Katherine Spillman. (Photo my Joe Martone)

Freshmen Kaylee Cuddihy of Tonawanda, Haley Karaszewski of Lockport, and Sydney Yost of Amherst are leading the initiative to start a flag football program at their school as part of the Academy Scholars Freshmen Foundations Program.

“These ladies as special leaders want to bring flag football to all,” explained Vincent, a five-time Pro Bowl defensive back who played with the Miami Dolphins, Philadelphia Eagles, Buffalo Bills and Washington Redskins (now Commanders) in his 16-year NFL career. “Interest in flag football is exploding in the last few years and I wanted to come to Mount St. Mary’s to gain some perspective on how we can continue to grow the game.”

Yost wrote a letter to Vincent about two months ago explaining the desire to create a league for high school girls. Vincent embraced the request and asked for a meeting after the NFL regular season.

Vincent spent the morning gathering input from multiple focus groups of Mount St. Mary students, then talked about those insights at an afternoon assembly.

“We discussed how the game should be played, how uniforms should be flattering for all body types, and down to what the marketing materials to promote the league should look like,” the NFL executive said. 

The goal of the program is to make it all inclusive and to shape the future of the growth of flag football through young people.

The NFL is all in on the future of flag football and Vincent is involved with an effort to make flag football an Olympic sport by 2028. He added that 20 million people worldwide participate in playing flag football.

“Flag football is truly all-inclusive and uniquely accessible, demonstrating that football is for all – regardless of gender, age, class, ability, disability or body type – there’s a place for everyone in the sport,” Vincent continued. “These young women at Mount St. Mary Academy want to play football. My goal was to listen and learn from them and champion their efforts to bring the game and its life-transferrable values to their campus.”

For their leadership efforts, the three freshmen will be attending this year’s NFL Pro Bowl at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

“I was so proud of our students who raised their voices for gender equity, in this case, to ensure that flag football be inclusive for all,” explained Katherine Spillman, MSM principal. “I was impressed that Troy Vincent and the NFL would thoughtfully seek our students’ insight on how to make the sport more accessible and help its success with tangible ideas on how to run it and market it to young people.”


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