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Girls Tackle Football Expands in West Jordan

May 05, 2016 04:52PM ● Published by Greg James

By Greg James  gregj@mycityjournals.com

West Jordan - It all started from a YouTube video and a father’s pride in his little girl. Several years later it has grown into a league with eight teams of girls. Sam Gordon never dreamed that her success playing football with the boys would grow into this.

“My dad [Brent Gordon] posted the video and it exploded from there. I broke several stereotypes of girls and football. I never thought about the idea of a league. I was speaking at an elementary school and I asked how many girls would like to play football. Most of the room raised their hands. I thought if that many at this school would like to play how many more were there in Utah or even America,” Gordon said.

The YouTube highlight video of Sam slashing and running for several touchdowns was on every highlight reel across the country. It was on ESPN’s Sports Center, “The Today Show” and many other national sports shows. Sam visited Roger Goodell (NFL Commissioner), J.J. Watt (NFL Player) and the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team. 

Her stats were amazing. In her first season playing football with the boys she racked up 35 touchdowns and nearly 1900 yards. Her attitude that she can do anything has inspired people all across the world. With the help of co-author Ari Bruening she even wrote a book, “Sweet Feet,” which outlines her experiences playing on all-male teams.

“I think Sam got the ball rolling. She showed the world that she could play football even though she was a girl,” Utah Girls Tackle Football director and president Crystal Sacco said.

The Utah Girls Tackle Football League (UGTFL) is believed to be the first girls tackle football league in the country. The league was officially formed April 7, 2015. Its initial season included four teams. This season the number of players has doubled to 110 and eight teams will play eight games plus playoffs and championships.

“This year there are names on the backs of the jerseys. We have logos on our helmets. It is super fun to play here. The competition is getting better,” Sam said.

The purpose of the league is to provide girls with the opportunity to play tackle football and increase girls’ overall participation in the sport. All of the coaches are USA heads-up certified (a safe tackling certification). The teams play eight-on-eight with a junior-size football and modified defensive rules.

“The excitement is a big deal. The girls are excited to do anything I ask of them. Unlike boys I have coached there is no complaining about their positions. Even doing sprints they are happy,” fifth- and sixth-grade head coach Shawn Goetz said.

The UGTFL board has plans to open as a high school club sport next season. Teams in Murray and Herriman have already begun to form. Women’s tackle football teams like the Utah Falcons and the Utah Blitz have reached out to the league to begin forming a bond with its young fans. The adult teams have practiced with and coached the younger girls, increasing the league’s footprint amongst its young players.

“These girls have a passion to play. They all play other sports like volleyball, basketball and softball. We even have a couple of cheerleaders. They just love to get out there and play and tackle,” league board member Dan Powers said.

The league operates through May 28 at Westland Elementary School in West Jordan. More information can be found on the league’s website at www.utahgirlstackle.com.   

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