5 Women And Girls Who Play Football

When you picture football players, you probably picture men (if you live in the U.S., that is; otherwise, you may picture soccer players of either gender). But Erin Bellucci, a student at Hall High School in West Hartford, Conn., understood that gender has nothing to do with sports talent and tried out for her school's football team, where she's now the senior kicker.

Bellucci told NBC Connecticut that ever since she was little, when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, she responded, "first girl in the NFL." Her uncle is a former NFL coach, and her father is a football coach at another high school, so she grew up around the sport. She added, "Honestly, of course it's a little intimidating to go into like 80 boys ... it's a new experience for them too." But, she said, "I'm really lucky to have such inclusive people."

"Football's such a macho sport," one boy on the team told NBC. "It's kind of special that she could be able to do that." Hall High Head Football Coach Frank Robinson III said his expectations for Bellucci didn't differ from those he held for any other student and that he told her, "As long as you're willing to commit the way everyone else is, then it's a great thing."

Bellucci advised other girls, "If this is something you want to do — anything, whether it be kicking, football, or scared to try out for a show, or anything, do it." And several other girls have chased their football dreams despite being the only girls on the field. Here are four other women who prove that football is not just a "macho sport."

1. Patricia Palinkas

In 1970, Palinkas became the first woman to play on a men's professional football team when she took the field as placekick holder for her husband Steven Palinkas for the Orlando Panthers. Afterward, she remained placeholder for the new kicker and then became a member of the team's taxi squad until she was suspended due to the demands of her "many television and personal appearances and fulltime teaching job," according to general manager and coach Paul Massey.

2. Jen Welter

Last year, Welter competed with the Indoor Football League's Texas Revolution, becoming the first woman to play in a contact (i.e. non-kicker) position in a professional men's football league. She then went on to become training camp/preseason intern for the Arizona Cardinals, making her the first woman to hold an NFL coaching position.

3. Shelby Osborne

When Osborne, a cornerback at Jeffersonville High School in Indiana, decided she wanted to play college football, her coach told her that her chances were bleak, and her search for school teams that would take her seemed to confirm this outlook. But when she went to a recruiting event at NAIA Campbellsville, whose team's coach had seen her play before, he immediately said yes, and she signed on shortly thereafter, becoming the first female college football defensive back ever.

4. Caroline Pla

At only 11 years of age, Pla was kicked off her Catholic youth league for being a girl. So, she and her family started a petition to "let girls play football," and it gained over 100,000 signatures. After reading the letter, the Archbishop of Philadelphia issued an order for the Catholic Youth Organization to let girls play football.

These women are scoring victories not just on the field but also for women everywhere who are prevented from pursuing their passions because of their gender.

Image: David Michnowicz/YouTube