It is the FASTEST GROWING SPORT in the United States. The International Olympic Committee just announced it will be a sport during the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. Across the country, states are adopting it as an official high school sport. And now, Graceland will field a team, becoming the first college in Iowa to offer scholarships. It’s not pickleball. It’s women’s flag football.
In development for over a year at Graceland, Women’s Flag Football is having a moment on the national scene. Graceland Women’s Flag Football Head Coach Greg Criswell ’86 isn’t surprised. “It’s a pretty straightforward game,” he said. “The mechanics of playing offense and defense are pretty easy to understand — on offense, it’s throw, catch, and run; on defense, you have to be able to grab a flag. Sure, there are systems, but if you are a good athlete, you can pick up the game.”
Criswell hosted an open tryout for flag football during the fall semester and has signed a few players to come and join the inaugural season for the Yellowjackets.
“We’re going to play in the KCAC since the Heart doesn’t have enough teams yet, but it’s a tough conference,” Criswell said. “You’ve got the three-time national champions (Ottawa University), and Kansas Wesleyan is tough. And now Baker hired a coach who is extremely connected to the national women’s flag football scene so they’ll be tough too.”
“Almost as important as skill is the type of athlete and student we recruit. I’m looking for athletic students with high character who bring a great attitude and are willing to put in the effort.”
GREG CRISWELL ’86
Head Coach, Women’s Flag Football
The recruiting road for Criswell has been uphill so far. Most women’s flag football takes place outside of the Midwest, in coastal states like Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and California. But he is optimistic and working hard to build the roster. “Almost as important as skill is the type of athlete and student we recruit,” he said. “I’m looking for athletic students with high character who bring a great attitude and are willing to put in the effort.”
With Women’s Flag Football, Graceland is innovating and trying to create more opportunities for female athletes on its Lamoni campus. “We are bucking the trend nationally and have lots of men enrolled thanks to strong recruiting classes for both football and soccer,” said Athletic Director Brady McKillip. “We always aim to have as much gender balance as we can and women’s flag is a great step toward that goal.”