Meet 15-year-old Malini Dutta; she has made history by becoming the first female to start for her high school’s football team. The student of Deep Run High School in Henrico previously played soccer but switched to football because she wanted a change.
“I wasn’t doing any sports,” Dutta told WWBT. “I didn’t have anything to do, so I thought, ‘Why not join the football team?”
Transitioning from soccer to football was not really difficult since she knew many of the players from her classes. Dutta’s head coach Joe Mullinax however said he spoke with players about bringing a female into a male-dominated sport. He added that Dutta fit in very well as he didn’t have to do much.
“It’s not ‘Oh, there’s Malini, the girl on the football team,’” Mullinax said. “No, she’s on the football team, and there’s a difference. She’s earned her way just like any other player would earn their way. Any good things that happen to her this coming year and beyond it’s not cause we’re trying to get attention. It’s cause she’s earned it.”
According to Mullinax, Dutta is not the first female he has coached but said she stands out. “When I first met Malini, she said she wanted to be a guard,” Mullinax said. “She wanted to be an offensive lineman, and she wanted to go play in the trenches of a football game which is one of the most violent and aggressive areas that there are.”
Mullinax noted that Dutta is even inspiring his own daughters. “The first person [my daughters] run up to is Malini,” Mullinax said. “They just think it’s so cool that there is a girl on the football team. They might not wind up being football players, but I would put her up there with a lot of other examples of showing that regardless of what you are, who you are, or what society says you are, you can be whatever you want to be if you’re willing to work at it. “
Outside of the field, Dutta continues to make a great impact. She has launched a sports injury prevention program called Par 4 Play. Under this program, she works with professionals on routines to keep players safe.
“Obviously, football has a lot of injuries during the season,” Dutta said. “There’s a lot of things that go on in between it. I wanted to figure it out and make a whole program for it.”