Super Bowl ad highlights Utah Girls Tackle Football League
Feb 13, 2023, 8:22 AM | Updated: 8:24 am
SALT LAKE CITY — With only 60 minutes’ notice on Sunday — dozens of athletes, parents and coaches gathered in a living room to talk about something they all love: girls tackle football.
Utah has put itself on the map as the only state offering a statewide girls tackle football league.
“It’s an empowering feeling,” said Sydnie Lee, a freshman in Orem. “People ask me all the time: ‘Oh, you play football? Is it two-hand touch?’ No! It’s full pads — full contact — just like boys football.”
Lee is the starting quarterback. She was invited to play with the Utah Girls Tackle Football League as a sixth grader and never looked back.
Lee’s mother said this league had prepped her daughter to be a force for good in the world.
“This experience shapes these players into confident women. It’s something they never would have been included in before; something that wasn’t for them before. But now the sky is the limit, and they are thriving,” Charity Lee said.
On Sunday this trailblazing league had a slice of the Super Bowl. A 30-second commercial, highlighting the program, aired throughout Utah.
The regional ad was reaired in Utah immediately following the conclusion of Super Bowl LVII, which the Kansas City Chiefs won 38-35.
“Lots of girls are shy and don’t speak up when they first join the team,” Westlake varsity coach Tyson Monson said. “It’s because they have never been included in it. They are nervous to step out, put the helmet on and start hitting somebody. But within weeks, I see so much growth.”
Last season, the Utah Girls Tackle Football League had 650 participants and 35 teams; a significant uptick from the 50 registrants it began with in 2015.
“I have girls who can tackle better than high school boys,” Monson said. “These girls leave our program and go into the world stronger, because of a simple team sport.”
Monson explained he enjoyed coaching his son’s football team, years ago.
“I wanted my four daughters to have every opportunity that my son had,” he said with emotion.
Girls can start playing in the tackle league beginning in third grade. Some of the youngest recruits shared their excitement for the upcoming spring season.
“I am looking forward to making more friends,” one 9-year-old said.
“I have a lot of family members that like to play football. This is me joining the legacy,” another third grader chimed in. “It’s really cool! My dad, and my grandpa and my other grandpa…they all played football. And now it’s my turn!”
Hanna Denny has two daughters, Rylyn and Hallie, playing this year.
“It’s phenomenal,” she said. “A lot of lessons that my girls are learning now are things that were hard for me to learn as a teen. In fact, they have a jumpstart because of this program, because of this football family.”
The athletes said workouts and training are intense and challenging.
One of Denny’s daughters lost 50 pounds in just one season.
“I feel strong and amazing!” Rylyn said.
Brent Gordon, the father of Columbia sophomore Sam Gordon, paid for the 30-second Super Bowl commercial. It’s another reminder of the debate over formalizing girls tackle football throughout Utah’s public schools. A Court of Appeals in Denver reinstated the case last month, giving the girls who want tackle football in high school another chance to win the lawsuit.
“Sure. We like to get dirty and hit people. We like to play the game. But we’re a family here, and that’s the most important thing.” Candice Monson said. “As a coach, my husband’s phone is constantly ringing off the hook with girls checking in: letting him know they won their basketball game or how they are coping after a personal tragedy.”
The league had its first equipment handout on Saturday. Over 275 girls showed up, indicating a growing interest.
For girls in third through 12th grade who are interested in playing tackle football, registration can be found here.
Registration is open through March 19, with practices starting mid-March.