Helping contribute to a new chapter of female sporting history in America, Crystal Sacco is among one of the proud participants helping to compose said chapter. In helping to bring shape to the ground-breaking Utah Girls Tackle Football League, it is an extension of her proud sporting legacy.
Currently the proprietor of the Superior Adaptive Swim School, which provides instruction for children with special needs, it is an extension of Sacco’s compassion and dedication to help others. Such kindness was the foundation towards her concept of launching a football league for young girls.
No stranger to the gridiron herself, Sacco was an offensive lineman with the Utah Jynx. In reflecting on her initial experience with the game, it was a serendipitous tale. Not only did the experience extend her sporting journey, complementing her indomitable spirit, but the impact of a teammate would prove to be critical in bringing this incipient league into reality,
“I was a swimmer and gymnast growing up. I run my own swim school helping people with Spinal Cord and Brain Injuries learn how to walk again through my water therapy. I never played a ball sport in my life, one of my friends asked me to come with her to a orientation for a semi pro team “Utah Jynx ” and I told her I would go and support her, but I was not playing football.
That night my coach convinced me to play football and I signed the contract. I ended up being a starter for four years for the Utah Jynx. My friend Angela Cox who played with me asked why they do not have Youth Tackle Football for girls, Angela Cox is one of our Board of Directors for “Utah Girls Tackle Football League”.
Angela kept asking our coach that we should start a tackle league for the youth girls, that the talent was in the kids. Then we had decided to hang up our pads and helmets, so we can start the “Utah Girls Tackle Football League”. I had started a Facebook page for “Utah Girls Tackle Football League” and reached out to Sam Gordon on Facebook. Her dad called me in March and in just a few short weeks we created a league of our own for the 5th and 6th graders.”
With the league open to girls in the fifth and sixth grade, it is a historic effort that is the first of its kind in the United States. Including sponsorships from Riddell and Celtic Bank, it only took an astounding three days for registration to fill up. Consisting of a three-game season with team names such as the Yellow Jackets and the White Hawks, the 50 girls are divided into four teams, competing in an 8-player format.
In effect, the league is also an extension of Sam Gordon’s remarkable sporting legacy. Raised in the Salt Lake area, Gordon was a wunderkind, capturing the imagination of sports fans the world over. As a nine-year old, she competed in a boys league, racking up 25 touchdowns while logging an astounding 1,911 rushing yards.
Highlight videos suddenly became viral online resulting in Gordon becoming immortalized with an appearance on the Wheaties box, while earning the opportunity to be NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell’s guest at the Super Bowl. The fact that this historic league began in Gordon’s home state is testament to her status as once-in-a-lifetime talent whose impact on women’s sport in America is destined to hold up over time.
Taking into account Gordon’s celebrity status, it served as the catalyst, augmenting discussion about the possibility of more girls in Utah wanting to play football. With her father Brent contacting Sacco, (he had been aware of her efforts in sowing the seeds for a potential league), the dream took an exciting new reality,
“I find Sam and Brent to be inspiring people, I don’t think we could have done it without them because all of us working together we all created a miracle, egoless intent. Sam Gordon will be locked in this league for as long as she wants as well as her Dad. It is such a positive vibe that we have with the Utah Girls Tackle Football League as well as the parents.”
Translating Sacco’s vision into reality has emerged as a true labor of love. In addition, Brent Gordon proudly serves as one of the league’s coaches, while also pulling double duty as a Board Member. Along the way, another key figure was essential, forming a sporting trinity whose efforts have created a new group of American sporting icons.
Samantha Rapoport, a former quarterback with the Montreal Blitz had helped develop the female game in many exciting ways. In her current capacity as the Director of Football Development with USA Football, one of her greatest legacies had been the development of the Women’s World Football Games.
Having also helped establish female flag football leagues, (while emphasizing safety), her acumen and expertise proved to be invaluable, furthering Sacco’s enthusiasm and drive. As a side note, Rapoport is part of the league’s Board, helping to navigate the exciting future of this pioneering league.
Since the league’s inception, the media interest generated has been nothing short of remarkable. Of note, player Jonna Tucker told NBC News that she wants to be the first female NFL player. Such attention only adds relevance to the league, simultaneously generating admiration and respect. As the League President, Sacco is not only jubilant, but the efforts of all involved within the league have proved that the female game is here to stay.
“I am extremely excited! I see a bright future for these girls because we are going to expand throughout the years and reach out and help other states get a league going as well as age different age groups. Most of all these girls get to live in the dream world. I believe with all my heart that these athletes are you true football players. This is going to change the world.”
Sacco’s current efforts in the game are helping to propel sport in an exciting new direction, bringing it to a loftier place where young women can obtain the confidence and self-esteem to not only pursue their goals, but transform them. The collaboration with individuals such as Rapoport and the Gordons go beyond football itself, telling a compelling tale. Such sincere efforts are helping to transform female football into a national obsession.
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”