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She's a game-changer: 11-year-old becomes first girl on school's football team

After Juliette Haming nabbed the first interception of her budding football career, her mom, Dina Haming, stood up in the stands and yelled, "That's my girl!" — while the other parents turned and said, "Girl?"

Juliette, 11, is the first girl to play on the football team at her elementary school, St. Agnes School in Louisville, Kentucky. She's also the first girl to play in her league, the Catholic School Athletic Association.

Courtesy of Dina Haming
Juliette Haming is a cornerback on the St. Agnes football team in Louisville, Kentucky.

"In the beginning, it was a shock for everyone to have a young girl on the team," St. Agnes coach Joey Thurman told TODAY.com.

"The boys on the team were apprehensive at first, but then she laid a hit on someone and they realized she's just another player with a ponytail."

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And while the hard-nosed 6th grader was eager to get suited up when the season started in late August, it took some work to make happen.

Courtesy of Dina Haming
"The boys on the team were apprehensive at first, but then she laid a hit on someone and they realized she's just another player with a ponytail," her coach said.

First, the Hamings were told the CSAA had rules barring girls from playing.

Many local parents had also called the school to complain, saying their sons “didn't know how to tackle a girl" and that football “was a boys' sport," Dina said.

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But Juliette was in luck: A rule in the football handbook review passed in 2013 said girls were allowed on the gridiron.

Now she's a cornerback, hitting the field at full speed.

Courtesy of Dina Haming

"I don't see the big deal about a girl playing football," Juliette told TODAY.com. "The guys on my team are doing the exact same thing and working just as hard. So why is it that when a girl does, it matters so much more?"

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Sports are nothing new to Juliette. She’s played basketball, volleyball and soccer, but wanted to try something new, so she spent the entire summer practicing with the pigskin.

"She didn't know anything about the sport, and now she's talking the lingo and doing everything all the other players are doing," Dina said.

Courtesy of Dina Haming

Juliette says the most challenging part is being picked on for being the only girl on the team.

"My brothers and team members are surprised I've stuck it out for this long," Juliette said. "It's hard when they all make fun of me and laugh when I mess up on the field, even if it's the same mistake one of the boys made earlier."

But she doesn't let any of it knock her down.

Every game, she pulls on jersey No. 13, which she chose because it's Taylor Swift's lucky number, and gives it her all in the St. Agnes secondary.

Courtesy of Dina Haming
Juliette wears No. 13 because its Taylor Swift's lucky number.

Dina Haming says she’s beyond proud of her daughter.

"I know how hard the practices are," Haming said. "It took a lot to walk out on the field as the only girl, without her girlfriends, and say, 'Ok I'm here,' and then wake up and do it all over again.”

Juliette wants to try other sports to see what she likes best and what she might want to play professionally when she gets older — if she doesn't become a singer first.

"I feel special because a lot of people would probably say they can't do what I'm doing, but I've always been a person to start new things," Juliette said. "I'm not scared of a challenge."

Courtesy of Dina Haming
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