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CU Nursing student Bailey Paskach

Playing on the Gridiron

Nursing Student Played Football in a Women’s League for Four Seasons

Written by Molly Smerika on December 19, 2023

Bailey Paskach is 5’ 6½” – and that extra half-inch is very important when you play sports.


CU Nursing student Bailey Paskach playing for the Denver Bandits

If you name a sport, Paskach has probably played it. Soccer. Basketball. Softball. Volleyball. Swimming. Track. Even Division III basketball at Illinois College.

“I’ve played sports my whole life, and I’ve always been an aggressive player,” she says. “Even though I’m 5’ 6 ½”, I can jump really well and I’m a physical player in the paint.”

Paskach is also a former football player. She played for the Denver Bandits, a team in the Women’s National Football Conference (WNFC). Paskach played defensive end for three seasons and was the team’s punter for two years.

“It’s a fully-padded amateur league,” Paskach says. “It’s not at the level of men’s football, but that’s the goal. We have support from players like Colts wide receiver, Isaiah McKenzie, and retired 49ers linebacker, Patrick Willis.”

Paskach hung up her cleats after four seasons (one was shortened due to the COVID-19 pandemic) because she enrolled in the University of Colorado College of Nursing’s Bachelor in Nursing Traditional program.

“I have clinicals to attend so I can’t risk getting hurt again. I worry about my body, I need it for the rest of my life,” Paskach says.

Finding Football

Paskach says growing up, her older brother would be playing in football games, and instead of watching, she would be behind the bleachers playing football with the boys. She has never been one to watch sports, always wanted to be a part of them.


CU Nursing student Bailey Paskach #42 helmet with the Denver Bandits

Playing with her brother and friends is what made her fall in love with the sport, however, she didn’t think it was an option for her to play on a team. She says she would have played in high school, but there was never an opportunity for her to play.

When Paskach moved to Denver a few years ago, she heard about the Denver Bandits while out with her kickball team. The team owner, John Lutz, spotted her, gave her his card, and told her about the Bandits.

“I thought it was fake at first,” she admits. “Then I went to an information session and saw a large number of players and coaches, all hyped to see new faces and for the season to start. I will say it is difficult getting 50 women to work together as a team, but the results are amazing.”

Paskach stated that her team was one win shy of going to playoffs her first season, but the following undefeated season secured them a playoff spot in San Diego. “We lost in overtime against the Utah Falcons, but it’s that grind and competitiveness putting women’s football on the map.”

Women aren’t compensated in the league – in fact, they have to pay-to-play. They also have to study game films every week, mostly on their own. Sponsors are growing to help cover some of the costs but the goal is to get paid to play one day.

“We play for the love of the game,” Paskach says. “Being out on the football field, running through someone play after play, and then celebrating with the women you call family, is one of the best feelings in the world.”

Loving Sports & Becoming a Nurse


CU Nursing student Bailey Paskach playing for the Denver Bandits

Paskach’s desire to care for people and her love for sports led her to believe she’d go into physical therapy and work with athletes, but she was worried she’d get bored with repetition. After earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology, she moved to Colorado and took a job as a behavioral health technician working with children with autism. Then she worked for a few years doing home healthcare, which inspired her to earn a nursing degree.

CU Nursing is the best nursing school in the state,” Paskach says. “I wanted a good education for a good price. I want to go into pediatrics, and CU’s relationship with Children’s Hospital is what drew me in. And hearing how Tammy Spencer was named Nurse Educator of the Year also drew me in. I had a class with her, and she set my expectations high for the program.”

Paskach says being an athlete who’s recovered from multiple injuries has helped her become a better nurse.

“I’m able to empathize with patients,” she says. “Especially if I’m treating an athlete who gets hurt, I understand what it takes to recover and the emotional impact it takes on you when you can’t play the game you love.”

Paskach isn’t completely giving up on football. While she won’t play in the foreseeable future, she has a desire to go into coaching. Her partner coaches high school football in California, so she says she could see herself helping him as an assistant coach. She plans to help coach her former team next season.

“Even though I can’t play in games anymore, it’s still nice to be a part of the game,” she says. “It’s great to see people grow and coach from the sidelines, so I think that I’ll end up doing in the future.”

Topics: Students