In 1989, when Michelle Brodie, a 29 year old San Francisco lawyer, wanted to play football, the area had no women's football leagues. So Michelle advertised in the Bay Times, welcoming and asking all interested women to meet at Collingwood Park in the Castro. For a year, these women played a game each Saturday morning.
In January, 1990, Michelle Brodie's vision of women's football expanded to include a more competitive atmosphere. With another ad in the Bay Times, she called for an organizational meeting to form a league. Flooded with phone calls from interested women, she and then-girlfriend Mary Cullen answered all, posted flyers in the Castro, and recruited players everywhere they went.
"I am extremely proud of having started this league. Having put all that effort into this project that was so Important brought me so much joy."
- Michelle Brodie
After the first meeting, Michelle Brodie named the players the San Francisco Women's Flag Football League (SFWFFL). Its first season budget included all the start-up costs. Most of the women who wanted to play, however, could little afford--and some balked at--paying higher than normal fees to cover initial overhead. Because she so much wanted the league, Michelle paid them out of her own pocket.
Initially, none of the teams had a formal structure. Michelle arbitrarily divided the players into three groups. A volunteer manager from each would be responsible for collecting money for league fees, naming teams, and getting members together. (One group, already accustomed to being together as We Came to Play, later became The Café and has evolved into the Good Hands Girls.)
Michelle met with San Francisco Parks and Recreation officials to secure fields. Every Sunday she did the lining herself. She bought insurance, footballs, a down marker, cones, flags, and spray paint. She hired officials from the Golden Gate Officials Association. In tireless efforts, Michelle drew up and mailed a schedule to everyone, made a list of all the league players, kept track of standings, and wrote the original rules and mailed copies to every manager. She managed as well as played for her own team, the Rebels.
Official First Season
During the official first season, from March through July of 1990, Michelle also kept at her house all the equipment. Bringing it to the field every Sunday morning, she set up with girlfriend Mary's help, then stayed at the field all day. Michelle kept track of scores, paid officials, and collected everything at day's end to bring home. Every week she wrote summaries of each game.
Michelle organized the first-ever SFWFFL playoffs. The Rebels won the first championship on July 14, 1990, beating We Came to Play. She produced a videotape of all first season highlights. She also made a movie, "A History of the Rebels," about creating the league and that first season. "I am extremely proud of having started this league," she states. "Having put all that effort into this project that was so Important brought me so much joy."
Since the '90s, SFWFFL has been led by many hardworking commissioners. As the current commissioner, my firsthand knowledge only goes as far as 2017 when Sam Edelman and Trineice co-commissioned while captaining the Call Me's. In 2018, they passed the baton on to Scheherazade Hill who doubled down on recruitment and grew the league from 4 teams to 10 teams over course of 2 seasons. Not only were there 150+ women playing flag football, but the sidelines were routinely packed with friends, family, and significant others cheering on their teams. Social events and fundraisers were the norm and annual winter formals and queer proms gave players a chance to build community off the field as well as on. When COVID hit in 2020, the league hit pause along with the rest of the world. Team zoom parties kept us going until we had the green light to start up again in Fall 2021.
Stef Szczechowski stepped up as commissioner in Fall 2021 and took on the constantly changing COVID protocols, mask requirements, vaccination records, and decreased registration. She maintained connections with players all over California, regularly convincing SoCal players to travel up for her legendary 5v5 tournaments. Though she stepped down officially in 2022, Stef continues to run the Alameda Women's+ Flag Football League and still organizes the occasional 5v5 tournament in San Francisco.
In Fall 2022, I (Juliet) stepped up as commissioner with the intent of running a recreational draft division of SFWFFL. We started with 4 teams, but 2023 has brought a wave of new players looking to make friends and learn a new sport. Last season, we had over 75 registrants, and hope to have even more this Fall!