As female tackle football continues to grow in prominence, a key builder in this new chapter of sporting equality is Samantha Rapoport. Currently in her capacity as the Director of Football Development with USA Football, she oversees all USA Football / NFL Play 60 national youth engagement programs, including the famous Punt, Pass and Kick competitions along with NFL Flag Football programs.
Having once worked for the NFL, Rapoport served as the Youth Football Program Coordinator. Among her efforts during this tenure, she helped to organize the NFL Girls Flag Football Leadership Program. Considering its positive impact in helping to grow female football, it remains a great point of pride,
“It is one of my prouder career achievements thus far. Since the program was created in 2008, five states have added girls’ flag football at the high school varsity level, and that number will continue to grow.
My goal is to provide avenues for females to play this sport and to create a developmental pathway through the game for them to play flag, tackle or both from a young age into adulthood.”
Among her many numerous contributions to USA Football, one of her most remarkable is the implementation of the Women’s World Football Games. First hosted in Arlington, Texas in 2014, the event returned in 2015 with an even higher attendance.
Featuring female football players from over a dozen countries, the four-day event featured film analysis, drills (with a key emphasis was on safety) and an intra-squad game on the final day. Building on the values of fair play and mutual respect, the Games adds a new and exciting dimension to the empowering women eager to enhance their talents.
For the players involved, the benefits included the chance to rub shoulders with some of the great female superstars from USA Football. In 2014, the players had the chance to meet Dr. Jen Welter, who was breaking barriers by playing men’s football with the Texas Revolution.
During the 2015 edition of the Games, Rapoport was able to obtain the services of several members of the DC Divas (also Team USA alums) such as Callie Brownson, Missy Bedwell and Donna Wilkinson in order to provide instruction. The addition of such prominent women in football only adds to the positive experience that the Games aspires to.
The growing impact of this event may be one of the keys to closing the competitive gap in international female football, testament to Rapoport’s strong leadership abilities,
“The idea was sparked on the sidelines of the 2013 International Federation of American Football Women’s World Championship, an international tackle football tournament held every four years. Team USA was extremely strong and had been in 2010 as well.
Football has existed here for women longer than any country, and those women have access to coaching, people and resources that players in other countries just do not have. It is incumbent on USA Football, as the sport’s national governing body, to work to level the playing field and provide access for females around the world to learn from the best coaches around.
That is the mission of the Women’s World Football Games: to provide unprecedented access to some of USA Football’s best coaches so women can learn the game in a better, safer way and bring those skills back to their countries.”
Always looking for ways to continue and build the game, Rapoport provided her expertise in the launch of a remarkable new league. As one of the architects behind the first-ever Utah Girls Tackle Football League, Rapoport worked with Sam Gordon’s father, and former Utah Jynx competitor Crystal Sacco, among others. As a side note, Sam Gordon earned the privilege of being featured on the Wheaties box.
Since the announcement of its launch, the league has experienced remarkable feedback. With a full registration for the upcoming inaugural season, the league has garnered national news. Rapoport’s exceptional efforts have proven essential in helping to build on the positive momentum. In discussing the positive feedback, Rapoport is ecstatic at the opportunity to keep introducing the game to more ambitious girls, looking to make their own mark on the gridiron,
“It is remarkable. There is no question that girls in this country (and other countries) want to play tackle football. The fast-growing number of female football players (both flag and tackle) in this country reflects great enthusiasm for the sport and illustrates its burgeoning popularity. Our hope is that the success of this league will help to spark girls-only tackle leagues across the country as well as boys programs adding girls divisions to their current leagues.
“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”