Utah Girls Tackle Football held championship games at Rice Eccles Football Stadium

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Youth football is widely considered an important part of Utah’s sports culture. However, Utahans may not know much about the Utah girls tackle football league that held its league games at Rice-Eccles Stadium last weekend.

The ABC4 Digital Crew spoke with Kammi Bilanzich and Shawn Goetz, coaches of the West Jordan Lightning Elementary and Secondary Division teams, respectively.

Bilanzich started involved in the league as a player in his second season. She had previously played football with the boys, which she described as “tough” due to different body types. After playing in the Utah Girls’ League, she says she “was addicted to women’s soccer” and wanted to come back and play again.

Kami Bilanzich and the West Jordan Lightning Elementary Division team. (Courtesy of Utah Girls Tackle Football)

At the age of 18, Bilanzich began coaching instead of leaving the league altogether. “More and more girls are playing,” continues Bilanzich. “Schools don’t offer what we do yet,” Bilanzich says, describing how most girls don’t have to pay more than $150 to $200 to get involved in the league.

When asked why girls should be able to play tackling football, Bilanzich replies that girls “want to be able to kick”. “How many guys play flag football? she asks rhetorically. Bilanzich says sports are a good outlet for girls who may face challenges at school, at home or in their families.

“I’ve seen girls who play tackling football better than some boys,” says Bilanzich. His team, the Elementary Division West Jordan Lightning, won its championship game for its division on Saturday.

Sean Goatz is the current league president and head coach of the West Jordan Lightning high school division team. The West Jordan Lightning won their championship game at Rice-Eccles Stadium on May 21. Goatz says he and the team arrived at the stadium early to “enjoy and absorb” the experience of playing in a college-level arena. “The ability to be there and play there was amazing for them,” Goatz said.

Goatz became involved in the league’s freshman year when his daughter expressed interest in playing. He says the first season had about 50 girls involved who played three or four games in total that season.

Goatz says this season had over 600 girls involved in the league, which is their biggest year yet. He says the league allows girls to play against fair competition in the “number one sport in the country”.

Goatz’s favorite part of his role as president and coach is working with the girls, whom he describes as always “enthusiastic, happy and competitive.” He says coaching girls in tackling football is essentially the same as coaching boys, but admits the girls he has coached have generally been better listeners than the boys.

When asked what he wants Utahns to know about the league, Goatz said, “It’s a sport and an opportunity that we should be developing in Utah.” He believes high school football is “coed in name only” and only labeled as such so schools can avoid offering true women’s football programs.

“It’s the most physical sport and it’s called co-ed,” protests Goatz, noting that less physical sports like tennis and golf typically have male and female programs at the high school level.

Goatz and the league are already planning another season for the league to continue. He said he wanted to thank their sponsor, Under Armour, especially in their role of securing Rice-Eccles Stadium for championship games.

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