Shenell White, 15, is the only girl on the Deltona Wolves football teams. A sophomore, White is a starting running back on the offensive line of the Wolves’ junior-varsity team.
“I’m used to it, since even when I played when I was little, I’ve been the only girl on my team,” White told The Beacon.
White has played football since she was 5 years old, as part of the West Volusia Little Hatters and, later, the Volusia Raiders, two local youth-football programs.
She was drawn to the sport by her older brothers, now 19 and 17. Her eldest brother is a former Deltona Wolves varsity player, and the other is currently on the varsity team.
“My favorite thing is the team. The team bonding, the experience — it’s fun to me,” White said.
What’s it like, though, to be the only girl?
“The boys, they treat me with respect. They respect that I am a girl who plays football,” White said. “No one really discouraged me, but some players before have been jealous, because I’m better than them.”
White has started every game this year for the offense, and often also is a starting player on the JV Wolves defensive line.
She prefers starting on the offensive side.
“I like offense. I want the ball,” she said.
Measuring between 5-foot-1-inch and 5-foot-2-inches tall, White is noticeably smaller than most of her male counterparts. Her advantage is in her speed, and her ability to find holes in the opposing team’s defense.
By the time she is 16 or 17, it’s likely the size disparity between White and her fellow players will increase.
“In varsity, they’re way bigger than me. If I can’t knock them down, I guess I can outrun them,” she said.
White takes football seriously, but she has backup plans.
“I take it serious — serious to the point I want to go to college for it. But I have a backup plan. I also play basketball,” White said.
In addition to football, and playing as a point guard on the Deltona basketball team, White also runs track.
She plans to go out for the varsity football team next year.
“I’m going to work hard in the summer. Get faster and stronger,” White said.
White had a setback in 2019 when she suffered a torn ACL, a common sports injury that requires surgery, intensive physical therapy, and almost a year of recovery time.
But, the year she spent recovering was also the year when COVID-19 put a stop to high-school football, which gave her time to recover without missing all-important games.
By the end of her freshman year in late 2020, White was back in basketball, and she played flag football in the spring of 2021. She was fully recovered and back in action for this fall’s football season.
White’s high-school achievements aren’t limited to sports. She was recently elected Homecoming Duchess of the sophomore class.
She had some words of advice for girls who might be interested in sports that are traditionally male.
“If they really want something, they should go for it. If they’re nervous — always keep yourself around people who encourage you,” White said. “That’s what I have been doing my entire life. That has helped me build my confidence up to the point where if somebody ever tried to bring me down, it wouldn’t make me feel any type of way.”
“If they really want to do it, they should do it,” she said.