BEREA, Ohio — During the 2023 Pro Bowl weekend, Cleveland will be represented by a number of local athletes—and not just the likes of Myles Garrett, Joel Bitonio and Nick Chubb. In fact, some younger players will make a trip to Heritage Park in Las Vegas next week to compete with the best of the best.
The Cleveland Parks & Recreation Girls 12u Jr. Browns Flag Football team is preparing to compete in the NFL FLAG Championships during Pro Bowl Weekend. The girls team will compete in a 5 v 5 flag football tournament against other teams from around the country.
On Friday, the girls held a special practice inside the Browns' field house at the CrossCountry Mortgage Campus in Berea.
"Today we are working on routes and really building that chemistry," said Ashley Jackson, the team's head coach.
Jackson coached up her squad inside the Browns practice facilities, the girls getting a special message from Browns Chief of Staff Callie Brownson before the session kicked off.
Friday's preparation saw athletes from around Northeast Ohio join together on the flag football team, getting ready to depart for Vegas. The NFL FLAG Championships will take place at Heritage Park.
"We have teams from Washington, from Las Vegas, We’ve got some from Florida. So we’re coming and representing for the city of Cleveland and the Jr. Browns," Jackson said.
The girls, like sixth grader Kathryn Sowuo, are no stranger to football. For Kathryn, she competes in flag and tackle.
"I did tackle football before this," she said. "I was actually the only girl on the team so it was really exciting just playing with the boys."
While flag football has boys and co-ed teams, the growth of the sports for girls specifically is taking off.
"We had nine teams last year for our high school league," said Browns Youth Football Coordinator Hannah Lee. 'With the growth at the high school level, it has to start from the bottom so to see them compete at such a high level at the youth and be able to go to high school…it’s really exciting to watch."
Lee believes that flag football, which has been growing globally and supported by major platforms like the NFL with Championships like this, is set to keep expanding in both inclusivity and interest.
"I think this is going to be the most popular sport in Ohio if not across the country, just the growth that it’s had and the speed and the amount of girls who want to play, it’s exciting," Lee said.
And after an exciting practice at the Browns facilities, the girls on Jr. Browns flag football team are proving that to be true.
"You can reach your dreams whatever you put your mind to," Kathryn said.
The girls, highlighting the growth and development of the sport globally, will set the stage for the Browns professional players to compete in their own flag football matchup as part of the Pro Bowl Games on Sunday, which airs right here on News 5.
What will #Browns RB Nick Chubb, DE Myles Garrett and LG Joel Bitonio have to look forward to at the 2023 Pro Bowl Games?— Camryn Justice (@camijustice) January 11, 2023
Dodgeball, a water balloon toss, a punt catching challenge, a golf challenge, and a Gauntlet are among the activities that will be featured this year. pic.twitter.com/CoXMyXiZA6
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