In the world of sports, where American football has long reigned supreme, a new contender is swiftly making its presence felt.
Flag football, once a popular pastime in backyards across the country, has undergone a remarkable transformation. Now officially a 2028 Olympic sport and a sanctioned varsity sport at a growing number of colleges and universities, flag football has evolved into a dynamic game that celebrates the spirit of competition and teamwork in a thrilling and more accessible way. Gone are the days of heavy padding and tackles. In their place, we’re finding a sport that emphasizes agility, strategy and a renewed sense of camaraderie.
This fall, Nansemond-Suffolk Academy launched the Coed Saints Flag Football League, providing more than 150 students in kindergarten through eighth grade the opportunity to master the foundational skills of flag football under the guidance of NSA Upper School students and parent volunteers. The program is a sanctioned NFL FLAG League, which is the largest flag football league in the U.S. and the only league where players can wear official NFL gear. According to NFL FLAG, its leagues are designed to give boys and girls of all abilities a chance to learn and play, and have a blast doing it. NFL FLAG teams also have the opportunity to take the competition to the next level by participating in regional tournaments and national championships at NFL stadiums across the country.
“The boys love anything sports related, so this has been a great opportunity for them to get outside and enjoy some friendly competition with classmates old and new,” said Adrienne Johns, whose sons, Croix '36 and Bodhi '33, both participated in the Coed Saints Flag Football League’s inaugural season. “I love that the program brings together families that might not know each other well and extends the bonds the kids are making in the classroom onto the field.”
The Johns brothers have each enjoyed different aspects of the flag football program. Croix says he likes playing with his teammates and running the ball, while Bodhi has delighted in scoring touchdowns and learning new routes. However, the two can both agree one of their favorite parts of the league is their Upper School coaches.
This year, each team in the Coed Saints Flag Football League had two coaches from Upper School. Some teams even had expert guidance from members of the Varsity Football Team, like Parker Greene '24, who served as a coach for the league’s Commanders team.
“I have taken what I have been taught by my coaches and tried my best to teach my team what I have learned,” said Parker. “It's a really awesome experience to be able to teach kids the game and share my passion with them.”
For many of our flag football players, the Coed Saints Flag Football League was their first real opportunity to perform on the athletic stage at NSA. That includes Taylor Thompson '31, who played for the league’s Cowboys team.
“After the coach suggested that Taylor play quarterback for the first game, she quietly reached out to one of her teammates to take over the position for the first few snaps,” said mom Angie Thompson '01. “She just didn't quite have the confidence to move forward in such a visible role. But with the encouragement of her coaches, she eventually stepped in and sailed a touchdown pass to a teammate standing in the endzone. Since that first game, you can see the progression of her confidence steadily building each week, and it's incredibly exciting to watch!”
"I enjoy that all the people on my team work together,” said Taylor. “If one person messes up, we give each other confidence to play harder."
Kate Moores '24 serves as one of Taylor’s student coaches.
“I love working with the two girls on my team to help raise their bravery and power on the field,” said Kate. “They have shown that they can definitely keep up with the boys, and as someone who plays two coed sports, I think that is a very important mindset. Yes, they are girls, but they can run and throw just as fast and far as many of the boys.”
As flag football continues to gain popularity, the fun and competition doesn’t have to stop at NSA. NAIA lists women’s flag football as one of its emerging sports, with 23 of its schools sponsoring the sport. In 2025, the Atlantic East Conference is anticipated to become the first NCAA conference to offer varsity female flag football.
“The Atlantic East Conference is showing tremendous leadership as the first in the NCAA to elevate Flag, which will provide access for female athletes to play at the next level and further pursue their dreams,” said Troy Vincent, Sr., Executive Vice President of NFL Football Operations.
While this emerging sport continues to break barriers and inspire dreams on fields far and wide, we are all looking forward to watching our Saints continue to build connections and confidence for years to come through the Coed Saints Flag Football League.