KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Many football fans might have given up hope of seeing their sports included in the Olympics.
However, big news arrived on Monday, as the International Olympic Committee announced flag football will be included in the 2028 Games in Los Angeles during the 34th Olympiad, when an American favorite finally gets its day.
Football industry leaders report 20 million people in 100 countries worldwide are now playing flag football. That total includes a legion of young athletes who’ve grown up with the game, a version of American football without heavy hits. Instead of tackling with force, defenders reach for the flags tied around the offensive players’ waists.
“Overseas, they’re loving the sport and what it brings,” Justin Powell, a coach for young players in the Kansas City Football and Cheerleading league.
Seven years ago, KCFC had only 300 players taking part, but now, according to a league spokesperson, more than 5,000 kids play flag football each weekend.
Powell said “The Mahomes Effect” has inspired thousands more to suit up, in hopes of making it to the NFL or the World Games one day.
“It will allow for other athletes to show their talents. People who may not be able to make it in another sport. We’re going to see basketball players, football players, and everybody,” Powell said.
“It shows it to a bunch of more people, and a bunch of more people will start playing and it will be a worldwide sport,: Quincy Burris, a 13-year old player in the KCFC league, said.
A reported 750,000 American kids already play flag football, some of whom participate in league sponsored by the National Football League. RCX Sports helps organize and operate teams and events for the NFL. Dakota Marriot, who works with RCX Sports, is based in Smithville, Missouri. Marriot knows this Olympic news is a big step for flag football.
“The more we can put this on the national and international stage, and let people see flag is a great game, and it provides a lot of opportunities for these kids, then, I think it’s going to continue to grow,” Marriot said.
Some colleges at the NAIA and junior college levels offer flag football programs for female athletes. That includes two in the Kansas City area — Baker University and Ottawa University. RCX Sports reports at least 12 metro high schools do, too.