by Michelle Griego and Jennifer Mistrot

MORAGA (KPIX) — Pinkie Schnayer has always loved dance but, twice a week, the 14-year-old trades in her ballet shoes for cleats.

Pinkie is a freshman and one of two girls on the Campolindo High School football team in Moraga. Her teammates practice in a cohort of twelve to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure.

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“I feel like blocking’s probably one of my strong suits,” Pinkie said. “I’ve been, like, working out. I’ve been lifting mainly just to help build muscle.”

She has to be strong and talented to play on the offensive and defensive lines.

“I think it definitely was helpful having brothers and growing up in, like, a pretty — not rough environment but a very playful environment,” she said.

It was her older brother’s football games at Campolindo that inspired Pinkie to play. From day one on the team, her coach saw big promise.

“I was very excited when Pinkie decided she was going to do it, you know, ’cause everyone heard that she might and I’m just helping them to do it,” Coach Kevin Macy said. “A lot of girls get close but, you know, just can’t cross that threshold.”

Pinkie crossed that threshold without hesitation. Her tenacity began at birth. Pinkie was born with brachial plexus, a swollen spinal cord and she had very little movement in her arm and shoulder.

“It was really scary because she was picked up the wrong way. She could have really been hurt and permanently paralyzed,” said Jen Schnayer, Pinkie’s mother.

Pinkie had to undergo a year of physical therapy at Children’s Hospital but never let her injury deter her from playing sports.

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“I love it,” Jen Schnayer said. “I’m really proud of her. I think she has just an incredible amount of strength and self-confidence.”

“You never know how much you’re going to like something if you don’t try it,” Pinkie says.

Seeing other women try it helps too.

Last year, San Francisco 49ers coach Katie Sowers made history, becoming the first woman in the Super Bowl. This year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had two female coaches on their team. But Pinkie’s favorite player is Vanderbilt University kicker Sarah Fuller.

“I feel like she is just, like, so inspirational and with her platform, I feel like she’s using it so well,” Pinkie said.

She stays hopeful she’ll play a game this year after COVID delayed the season indefinitely.

“I really hope we get to have a season because it just be so much fun to have a season and get to play alongside my teammates,” Pinkie said.

For now, she’ll juggle distance learning, practice and ballet lessons which, she says, actually helps her on the field.

“I feel like ballet teaches you to be, like, your best self and to create like a better form of yourself,” she said. “So I feel like, by trying to make myself the best I can be, it translates to helping the team.”

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Campolindo has not yet had its first game of the season and may not play a game this year but Pinkie remains hopeful they will be able to play next year.