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New Trier News

The student news site of New Trier High School

New Trier News

The student news site of New Trier High School

New Trier News

NT debut flag football season fosters love for new sport

NT’s first girls flag football team focuses on inclusivity and improvement
Gwynne Lockwood
New Trier’s flag football team has a group huddle

New Trier High School’s first ever flag football season officially came to an end on Oct. 21 with a loss to Maine South High School. The championship loss culminated in an overall record of 3-4 in a season that saw a total of 24 touchdowns, 13 interceptions, and a big win at the team’s first playoff game against Maine West High School. 

More importantly, the team has built a loving and welcoming environment. 

I think we’re just going to get better, and that’s exciting.

— Ilana Styles

As a new addition this year to New Trier’s athletic program, flag football quickly gained popularity, making up a 36-player team. Freshman Victoria Wainscott says she was happily surprised with how big the sport had become.

“I’ve always wanted to play, but have never had the opportunity,” Wainscott says. “Especially going into my first year of high school, I [will] have this sport for all four years, and I think that’s really fun.”

Not only has the sport caught attention at New Trier, but flag football has become increasingly popular in Illinois as a whole, with many highschools forming new teams and getting ready to start playing competitively. 

“Girls flag football is one of the most rapidly growing sports in the state,” Augie Fontanetta, New Trier’s athletic director, said via email. “This Fall, the Central Suburban League made a concerted effort to field teams for girls flag football, and 9 schools [did] successfully,…with a few of those 9 having multiple levels. I fully anticipate girls flag football to become an IHSA [Illinois High School Association] sponsored sport beginning in the Fall of 2024.”

With the interest of so many girls, senior Mallory Jaberg says that an amazing culture was quickly created.  The opportunity to play with so many athletes of different age levels created an inclusive and supportive environment. 

“I kind of connected with the freshman especially,” Jaberg says. “I try to watch out for them, ask about their day, ask if everything’s going well, [because] I really do love all the girls I play with and I just want to help them out with whatever they need.”

Above all, team culture remains the most important thing for this group of girls. Good sportsmanship and work ethic come before winning, which head coach Mark Colegrove emphasizes.

“We had four standards of success that we focused on,” Colegrove says. “One was being there, being in the moment. The second one was improving your baseline, so really trying to get better every day. [The] Third one was being a good teammate…and then the last one was [having] championship attitude and having fun. That was how we measured our growth.”

For the players, team bonding moments stand out as some of the best memories from the season. Music-filled bus rides and group hangouts reflect the positivity and unity of the group.

“The bus rides were really fun,” Wainscott says. “We would always play hype-up music and get our team going for the game, and even after the game if we lost we would still hype each other up. It was really fun and a really active environment.”

The inclusive and welcoming atmosphere is what, for many, makes the team feel so special. 

“Everyone’s really supportive of each other and there’s a lot of good, positive energy,” sophomore Ilana Styles says. “We’ve built such a good community this past year. Everyone gets along really well, which is very nice.”

With a brand new team and a new group of girls, they are already creating team traditions, including the “golden football.” Jaberg states that each week, the MVP takes the football home, and brings it back the following week with their signature on the ball.

“The kids really rally around the recipient of that [golden football] award each week, and that’s the coolest thing to see,” Colegrove says.

As the first year flag football has been available to students at New Trier, each first “big game moment” has stuck out as a core memory for the players. First interceptions, flag pulls, and touchdowns made an impact on the team’s mindset and goals.

“It was senior day, and I caught my first interception,” Jaberg says. “Everyone was cheering and everyone was so happy for me. We were all jumping around…and I feel like that’s what happens a lot when someone does well. We all are super supportive.”

As the coach, Colegrove says that witnessing these big moments for players made just as big of an impact on him as well.

“After our first touchdown, the whole sideline went crazy,” Colegrove says. “We didn’t score one point in the first game we played, but in the second game…we did. It’s not that we needed validation but it was validated. I mean, my body was shaking because the kids were yelling and screaming.”

As the season comes to an end, the team is already looking ahead to next year, looking forward to more ways to improve, more wins, new players, and more team bonding. Styles says that with North Shore Flag Football feeding into New Trier, the team is set up for success. 

“There are going to be a lot of younger girls that are incoming freshmen in the next [few] years that have already been playing, so we already have a good foundation built,” Styles says. “I think we’re just going to get better, and that’s exciting.”

Most of the players this year were new to flag football this year, yet fell in love with it instantly. They encourage others to go for it and play next season, even if they are new to the sport, too.

“For sure try it out,” Wainscott says. “Even if you don’t love flag football, you’ll love the atmosphere and the team bonding. Everyone on our team said it’s the most inclusive sport that they’ve played at New Trier, and that’s why they’ve loved it so much.”

As a graduating senior, Jaberg is sad to leave the team behind, but is confident in the girls’ success bound to come.

“Oh my gosh, next year, I think we’re going to be amazing,” Jaberg says.

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