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Inaugural girls flag football season develops confidence in players, coach
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The inaugural girls flag football team in Dawson County. - photo by Paige Sweany of Sole Photography

When Wyatt Hankins first got the email from his aunt about a coaching vacancy in Dawsonville, he was ready to jump at the opportunity. 

He had played sports growing up and always considered himself a fanatic, but injuries sidelined his playing career earlier than expected. 

The email was for the 2021 youth flag football team for girls. GHSA added girls flag football in 2020 and the Dawson County Parks and Rec had tried to start a youth team, but COVID-19 shut them down. In 2021, Parks and Rec wanted to give it another shot, but they needed to find a head coach. 

“I jumped at it,” Hankins said. “Sports in general is a passion of mine. Not only did I want to start my coaching career and get my foot in that realm, but the email said something like if there’s no coach, we’re not going to be able to do it. I knew there were kids out there excited about it. So I wanted to do it, but when I heard it wouldn’t happen without a coach, it felt like I had to do it.” 

The team ended up being eight fourth and fifth grade girls. Hankins said he was nervous, not because he had never coached a team before, but because the rules were different from any football he knew in the past. It was seven-on-seven, the field was only 80-yards, as opposed to the normal 100-yards and there were no fumbles, but instead dead balls if someone dropped it.

“To start, it was a struggle,” Hankins said. “I had never coached before so for me, there were a lot of nerves. There were a couple girls that knew how to throw a football, but just a couple. In terms of offense and defense, they were all oblivious. So we had to put the spokes on the wheels before we could roll.” 

“We were such a new group though that we really just spent our time focusing on fundamentals. It didn’t affect us as much as it would have a group used to a different style of flag football. We didn’t have to unlearn any rules.”

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Head coach Wyatt Hankins coaches his team from the sidelines during a girls flag football game. - photo by Paige Sweany of Sole Photography

By the end of the season, Hankins said the team was becoming such good friends that he enjoyed having to get his team to refocus during practices, as opposed to the shy, timid team he had at the beginning of the season. 

Though his team did not win any games, Hankins said there is so much value in what the team is doing. 

“Not only did I see the girls’ confidence grow, but honestly, their execution got better every game,” Hankins said. “You could see it in the final scores. We had a couple chances to even win some games. There’s a lot of siblings or relatives playing tackle football. A lot of people didn’t even know flag football was a thing you could sign up for in Dawson County. We need to get the word out so we can expand the popularity and get this off the ground.” 

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Zoe Mitchell runs past a tackler during a girls flag football game. - photo by Paige Sweany of Sole Photography
One moment Hankins took special pride in was at the Dawson County High School football team’s youth night, his team walked onto the field and was recognized as the first all-female football team ever in Dawson County sports history. 

“Society is slowly but surely catching up to the fact that everyone is equal and anybody that wants to work hard can find success,” Hankins said. “We no longer live in a time where society wants a woman to stay at home. It always should’ve been that way but we’re here now.” 

“At the end of every practice, we talk about our idols. I don’t want these girls to desire to be social media darlings, but I want them to look up to those female world leaders and innovators.” 

There is no doubt in Hankins mind that he will be back next season to coach the team again. His main goal of the team is continuing to raise awareness throughout the community, but the experience has also gotten a hold of him emotionally. 

“This is the single most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life,” Hankins said. “To be able to see the growth as football players...it’s cool. But to see the future leaders of our country and to watch their confidence grow, it’s a struggle to put into words. I’m proud to be their coach.”

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