Earlier this offseason, the New York Giants announced a $60,000 donation to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) to support the inaugural girls flag football leagues in Section 1 and Section 4.
The funds were split evenly between each section and helped cover the costs associated with starting the sport. In addition to the contribution, the Giants planned on finding ways to connect with the participating athletes and coaches throughout the year, including a clinic and other engagements during the season.
One of the events occurred this past week, as quarterback Daniel Jones and linebacker Blake Martinez helped run a football clinic for around 200 high school girls from Section 1 schools at Somers High School. The event was a celebration of the arrival of flag football at the high school level in New York State, with the season set to begin on April 19.
"We had a lot of fun today, taking the girls through drills and just helping out. A lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm…" Jones said. "It's been tough with COVID the past couple of years. We haven't been able to get out in person as much and actually be in the community. But being back out here today, back on the field playing football, teaching and coaching and spending time with these high school football players has been a lot of fun."
Nike, a partner of the Giants and NFL, continued their commitment to growing girls flag football with a $100,000 product grant for uniforms to NYSPHSAA that was split evenly among the six sections that launched girls high school flag football programs this spring.
Brewster, Greenburgh-North Castle, Hastings, Lakeland, Mahopac, Panas, Peekskill, Scarsdale and Somers have all put teams together for the inaugural season. All nine schools had team members participating in the clinic.
"I always look back when I was a kid, any moment anybody came out, whoever it was, to help out even for five minutes, it always meant a lot to me," said Martinez. "It showed that people doing the things that I wanted to become were able to take that time to teach me things."
Jones and Martinez put the players through an assortment of drills, working on their passing, receiving and defense while the pros provided guidance.
The New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHAA) launched its flag football pilot program this year in six of the state's 11 sections, with the Giants serving as the sponsor for Sections 1 and 4.
"To play varsity flag football to me means that changing times are coming, and that the world is headed in a stronger direction, a greater direction and a more equal direction," said Devondi Michele, a member of the Somers Flag Football team. "It meant the world to be here as a player, as a team member, as a woman, and I'm very honored to be a part of that revolution."
In addition to the clinic at Somers High School, the Giants also recently helped host the USA Football Blitz event at MetLife Stadium.
Approximately 1,500 kids and parents took part in the day, which was highlighted by a clinic run by Giants legend Eli Manning and running back Sandro Platzgummer to launch the second season of Girl's High School Flag Football in New Jersey's Shore Conference. The inaugural season saw seven schools participate in 2021, and ten schools are participating in 2022.
"I'm a big fan of flag football. I played it growing up until eighth grade," Manning said. "It's just a fun way to get more people involved in football and playing, which I think is wonderful."
In addition to the clinics, more than three dozen youth football league leaders from the Tri-State region joined together at the Blitz event to prepare their programs for 2022 and to network with one another. Additionally, nearly 110 local youth coaches completed USA Football's coach certification in-person with classroom and on-field instruction to better teach the sport.
"A lot of people don't have the equipment you need for American football, but flag football is a really, really good version of football," said Platzgummer, a native of Austria. "There's nobody that can't play flag football. There are so many different aspects of it. I love it."