Modifying Flag Football for Gender Equitable Engagement in Secondary Schools

Article excerpt

Abstract

Flag or touch football is a popular activity unit in American secondary physical education curricula. However, unlike other sports its stigmatization as a masculine-typed activity and frequent inequitable distribution of game play opportunities at the skill positions (e.g., receiver, quarterback) results in the marginalization of female students. This article synthesizes the literature concerning the teaching and learning of football in order to make a point that without major modifications, many female students will not enjoy football nor will they improve their skill execution and tactical understanding. The article continues with organizational, instructional, and game modifications to promote equitable engagement. Lastly, results of university physical education methods majors' perceptions of the modifications are reported. At the conclusion of the football unit, males more strongly believed that teaching coeducational flag football would be more problematic; however, they also believed more strongly that the game must be modified in such situations and now knew more methods for doing so. Females also more strongly believed that the game must be modified and additionally felt more confident of successfully teaching it. At the start of the unit, female majors--as compared to their male classmates--rated themselves as less confident of successfully teaching football, rated themselves lower in skill level and knowledge, and more strongly believed that female students would be intimidated by differences in size, speed, and strength of male students. These differences were no longer statistically significant or had dissipated by the end of the unit.

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In the updated national standards for physical education (National Association for Sport and Physical Education [NASPE], 2004), there is no overt mention of flag football in either the student expectations or sample performance outcomes at each grade level stratification even though other sports are specifically mentioned. There is no reputable source for determining how prevalent flag football is in the secondary physical education curriculum in the United States; however, web-based searches using various search strings reveal that many middle and high school physical education programs across the country include flag football as a stand alone unit or as part of a team sports course. This article synthesizes research literature on attitudes toward and participation patterns in team sport in general, and football specifically, in order to frame and legitimize concerns that NASPE may harbor toward flag football. The article continues with modified game structures, rules, scoring, and equipment, which when collectively and appropriately applied will make flag football a more inviting sport to female students. Results of questionnaires used to assess the efficacy of the proposed curricular modifications toward changing university physical education majors' perceptions of flag football and its teaching in secondary schools are shared and reinforce the argumentation presented in the article.

Literature Review

Based on several decades of research evidence, it is reasonable to conclude that without game modification, teaching during games, and reorganization of game structure and players, team sports, especially football and its variants will often result in miseducation. In coeducational settings, status quo curricular and instructional methods may serve to reinforce approach and avoidance behaviors for dominant male students and less-skilled students (often girls), respectively. In this section, evidence is synthesized to paint a picture of what (team) sports--with football highlighted--mean to students and how they are viewed in order to set up the remaining sections of the paper, where modifications that can enhance equitable and enjoyable engagement in flag football are proposed and assessed.

School contexts

Outside of school, children voluntarily play team sports, hopefully influenced by positive school experiences. …