And they’ve got $5 million on the cause.

By Sydney Haymond
Feb 04, 2021 @ 10:00 am
There Are 1 Million Fewer Girls in High School Sports Than Boys — Nike Is Trying to Change That
Credit: Courtesy Nike

For too long, the world of sports has favored men and discouraged women, and the disparity starts young. In fact, according to Nike and the National Federation of State High School Associations, there are 1 million fewer girls playing high school sports than boys nationwide. At such a critical point in the growth and development process, athletics can play an important role in a teen's life. So Nike intends to make a difference by putting their money where their mouth is — and 5 million dollars of it at that. In partnership with the NFL, Nike aims to add new sports teams — and uniforms and gear — to schools across the country, specifically for girls.

Thanks to Title IX, schools are supposed to invest equally in girls sports as with boys. It's why your school probably had both girl's and boy's soccer teams. Why there was a softball team to match up with boy's baseball, or field hockey as a counterpart to lacrosse. (Whether the resourcing for these teams is ever actually equal, unfortunately, might be a problem bigger than Nike to solve.) And one game where that equal investing is certainly lacking is football, one of the most popular high school sports in America and one with almost no female representation anywhere, from the littlest leagues up to the pros.

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There is no widespread counterpart in the women's sport world to men's football, even as women continue to make strides in that arena (the first woman to play in a Power 5 Conference College Football game, Sarah Fuller, happened only last season!). And so this is where Nike's money will go: Bringing flag football the attention (and resource) boost it needs to become a viable athletics path for girls in more states. According to Nike, flag football is quickly becoming the fastest growing sport in the U.S., with girl's high school teams in six states already.

Video courtesy of Nike.

To entice schools to build a flag football program, Nike is stepping up and offering up to $100,000 worth of products to athletic associations who either currently have women's flag football teams or pledge to introduce them at the high school level. By offering free gear, Nike hopes to offset some of the costs and hassle of starting a flag football program to encourage more schools to join in. 

The product packages include uniforms, sports bras and socks. The gear is not only functional, but cool as well. Mesh panels are included in both the jersey and the shorts for breathability, with classic football details such as stripes down the side of the shorts and names on the back of the jerseys. The shorts are also specially designed to fit in with the rules of flag football that require jerseys to be tucked in. 

Girls getting in the game is the ultimate goal, and Nike hopes this program will serve as a stepping stone to reaching new heights for women in sports.