Teams of women and girls from around the world will be meeting up in Key West for adrenaline-packed sporting events and activities Monday through Monday, Jan. 24-31, during the 30th annual Kelly McGillis Classic International Women’s & Girls’ Flag Football Championship. The highly anticipated event has scheduled pre- and post-tournament activities and three days of friendly competition.

Kelly McGillis key West

Actress Kelly McGillis plays during a past year’s Key West flag football tournament that bears her name.

The global (more on that later) competition also features cultural events, including acting workshops and performances guided by tournament namesake and Golden Globe-nominated actor Kelly McGillis.

Did you know Kelly is a former Key West resident and restaurant/bar owner? Most people remember her starring role in “Top Gun,” but I really enjoyed her performances in “Witness” and “The Accused” as well.

Speaking of Kelly McGillis, I recently bumped into her friend Diane Beruldsen while I was out and about on the island. Diane is the president and founder of the International Women’s Flag Football Association that presents the tournament — and she told me that this year’s competition would include teams from more international countries than ever before!

In addition to the U.S. teams, Key West will be welcoming players from Morocco, Spain, Mexico, India, Jamaica, Honduras, El Salvador and Sweden.

“The Kelly McGillis Classic seeded women’s tackle, started the International Women’s Flag Football Association, set the pace for female flag football all over the world and is an organization run and operated by women,” Diane said. “We use flag football to create leaders and unite females all over the world.”

The tournament brings together players ranging from 9 years old to seniors (who could run circles around me!) to compete in multiple divisions, develop their skills during flag football clinics and enjoy camaraderie during social activities.

Kelly McGillis Classic Flag Football Key West

The tournament brings together players ranging from 9 years old to seniors to compete in multiple divisions.

Their jam-packed 2022 lineup will also include an “only in Key West” beachside “meet and greet” with Kelly, a women’s speaker series, lots of “playful” parties, and carb-loading dinners perfect for their strenuous workouts.

Following three days of clinics and Florida Keys festivities for players, it will be time for the opening ceremonies from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 27, at the Half Shell Raw Bar (which has amazing happy hours, BTW), located at 231 Margaret St.

Diane has outdone herself this year with what I believe will be a first for the Florida Keys: a Moroccan team of women will perform a belly dance and will be joined by other groups who will perform dances and songs from their countries.

I just might have to forgo my usual Thursday evening TV/couch surfing and join in the festivities.

Kelly’s Players Parade will be right after the ceremonies(and belly dancing), and will showcase Grand Marshal Kelly McGillis and the tournament teams proceeding through Key West’s seaport area and famed Duval Street.

The crowds along the parade route love to cheer on the gregarious players, who are generally decked out in their team uniforms or sports-themed costumes and proudly carry their country or state flags or team banners.

Following the parade will be the official registration party around 8 p.m.-ish at Bourbon St. Pub (AKA my go-to watering hole), located at 724 Duval St.

Kelly McGillis Classic Flag Football Key West

Viewing of all games and activities throughout the week is open to the public free of charge.

The players love to have fun on and off the field. So of course Diane has lots of evening entertainment planned, including a Friday night dance party at the Aquaplex, 711 Duval, and a Saturday night soiree at RockHouse Live, 135 Duval.

The games will kick off at 8 a.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Wicker Field Sports Complex on Flagler Avenue. The competition culminates on Sunday with playoffs and the World Challenge Game X — the latter played at Tommy Roberts Stadium.

Then the players take a well-deserved “time out” for an awards ceremony Sunday night at El Siboney, located at 5501 5th Ave. on Stock Island.

Viewing of all games and activities throughout the week — including clinics on how to play and officiate flag football — is open to the public free of charge.

Want more information about the flag football championship? Just email Diane Beruldsen at iwffa@iwffa.com.

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