The word confused all of them.
The brand-new Roslyn girls flag football team was trying to process all this new information head coach Steve Formichelli was throwing at them in the first few days of practice.
Much of it they sorta kinda understood, or pretended they did.
But this word? They had no idea. And he kept yelling it.
“He was saying ‘blitz, blitz, blitz’ and we were looking at him like ‘what are you talking about?'” junior Amanda Gerber said, laughing. “None of us knew what it was. I love coach but he kept throwing it at us and we all were very confused. Finally we told him he had to explain it.”
It’s a whole new world and a whole new spring sport at Roslyn High, where along with 24 other Long Island schools, girls flag football is making its debut in 2023.
Thanks to an initiative from the NFL and the New York Jets, there are now 41 girls flag teams on the Island, and Roslyn was one of the schools selected to debut this year.
They’re led by Formichelli, an assistant coach for the tackle football team, and a group of 18 students who are suddenly dealing with bumps and bruises from a sport most have just started playing.
“I don’t even know how I’m walking right now,” said senior running back Masha Bogatyryova. “My hamstring hurts, my groin, my ankles are busted.
“But it’s awesome. Having so much fun.”
The Bulldogs, who play their games at nearby Harbor Hill Elementary, have gone 1-2-1 in their first four games, and Formichelli said he’s been surprised at how well the girls have picked up the game.
“The first few days of practice there was a lot of explaining to do, about how plays are run and different formations and that kind of thing,” Formichelli said. “But some of them had played youth flag football, and a lot of it is just sending them the rules and plays and they pick it up quickly.”
The field is 80 yards long and 40 yards wide in girls high school flag football, with seven players on each side on the field at once.
Roslyn’s skill position players include Gerber, who’s become the quarterback, along with freshman Regan Glick (“she catches everything we throw her, she’s amazing,” Gerber said) and Bogatyryova at running back, who has scored touchdowns but has yet to figure out how to properly celebrate.
“I don’t have a good touchdown dance yet, but it’s on my to-do list,” she said with a laugh. “Scoring touchdowns does feel awesome, though.”
For many of the new Roslyn players, deciding to join the team came either from a longtime interest in trying the sport, or feeling like it would be fun to try something new.
“I didn’t like any of the other spring sports options, so this seemed like a good idea,” said freshman Lily Topel, who plays safety on defense. “The girls were immediately really nice and fun to be with, and the game are intense and great.
“There’s a lot of trash talk going on out there on the field, which I didn’t expect,” Topel added. “But it’s great.”
Gerber, who said a big theme of the team is “woman empowerment” said that other students at school were at first surprised a team had been formed, but when Roslyn won its first game, people were excited.
“It was our first football win in years so people were into it,” Gerber said.
Formichelli said that with the sport’s growth is coming state recognition: This year there will be Nassau and Suffolk county championship games, and next year New York will have official state champions in flag football.
For its inaugural year, Formichelli said the goal is to have the kids learn the rules and have fun, while figuring out which position suits them best.
“We’ve only been doing this a few weeks but we’ve come a long way in just a few weeks,” Formichelli said. “Kids are finding their niche and really getting the hang of it.
“And we’ve had a bunch of kids in school ask about how they can get involved for next year. There’s a real buzz about the team.”