Menlo News July 10, 2023

Girls’ flag football to kick off in fall with Paye, Young at helm

Knights varsity will be coached by former NFL players Paye ’83 and Young with Ward Williams ’89,  Trujillo

7.1.2023 – Menlo School will field a girls’ flag football team - with two former NFL players in its coaching ranks - and has already drawn nearly 40 student-athletes interested in playing for the inaugural team this fall.

John Paye, former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, varsity girls’ basketball head coach and a 1983 Menlo alumnus, is head coach. Steve Young, an NFL Hall of Famer who played most of his 15-year career (1985-1999) as a 49ers quarterback, will serve as an assistant coach. They will join forces with assistant coaches - Buffie Ward Williams ’89, Menlo Assistant Athletic Director, a standout volleyball, soccer, softball athlete and former varsity soccer assistant coach, and David Trujillo, varsity baseball coach and former professional baseball player.

“We are excited to add girls flag football to our sport offerings.and provide an opportunity for our female students to play a popular, fast-growing sport. There is so much support among the girls and their classmates, the Menlo community, our fellow schools, and at the state and national levels for this exciting athletic endeavor,” Menlo Director of Athletics Earl Koberlein said. We are also thrilled with the inaugural coaching staff. John, Steve, Buffie and David bring so much knowledge and a high level of coaching expertise and experience.

The season begins Aug. 21 and lasts through Nov. 4, however the number of games depends largely on how many other schools will have teams, and if there are officials. Menlo School is in the middle of ironing out dates of games with other schools, and has plans to play teams, such as The King’s Academy, Notre Dame-Belmont, Notre Dame-San Jose, and a season-finale Valpo game against Sacred Heart Prep.

What is known is that the interest level is high at Menlo.. Several girls have been practicing on their own, getting together for reps of passing, catching and running. Some of those players picked up the game in middle school.

“There’s certainly a good amount of excitement in the Menlo community,” Paye said. “I’ve been getting photos and videos of some of the basketball players out with their friends practicing and training on their own for the season.“

Paye has coached the school’s tackle football team in past seasons, and has led the girls’ basketball team in two stints for more than two decades. He coaches Young’s oldest daughter in basketball, and will reunite on the field with his 49ers teammate. Young will serve as an assistant coach-guest lecturer-type for the girls’ flag team - and both his daughters - a senior and freshman - are lined up to play. 

“Flag football will be a wonderful opportunity for young women to show their talent,” Young said. “Football is a great team game that teaches tremendous life lessons. I want to help build women’s flag football.”

Starting from the ground up, girls’ flag football will be an equalizer. Unlike in nearly every high school sport, few have played organized, competitive football. Nearly all the players will be starting new to the game. Interest has spanned from students who don’t play a sport to those looking for a fall sport.

Paye started as a freshman at Menlo in 1979, the first year the school enrolled girls, too. Since then, he has witnessed a sea change in high school athletics for girls.

“I guess it’s a little old-fashioned but it gives everyone an opportunity to play. In my book, high school sports first and foremost should be fun and a place where you can bond with your classmates.”

Paye coached his sister Kate to its first girls’ basketball state title in 1989 and all three subsequent titles in 1990, 1991 and 2019. John, a three-sport athlete who was also drafted by the San Francisco Giants, was a star in football and basketball at Stanford. Kate, was a four-year player for the Cardinal women’s basketball team that won a title in 1992 and advanced to the Final Four in 1995, and she is now women’s basketball associate head coach. John coached all three of his daughters in Menlo basketball, and has also served as a football assistant coach. Since his high school days, he has seen and helped usher in firsts for girls in athletics.

Flag football is growing at a fast clip, and with all the CIF girls’ teams, it’s bound to just gain speed. The 49ers, along with the NFL teams, and Nike launched a grant two years ago to support the sport.