Former collegiate athlete Christina Palomino breaks the norm with Gaelic football.
By Mariah C. Harper, Photo by Mireya Almaraz
Christina Palomino throws herself into sports, both figuratively and literally. The Colorado native has channeled her ambitious spirit through a variety of sports, from competing on San Diego State University’s soccer team to joining volleyball and flag-football leagues when she moved to Austin in 2012. Then, in 2016, she fell in love with a sport she didn’t even know existed.
Palomino, a half-center forward for the Celtic Cowboys, discovered Gaelic football through her masseuse, Melissa McCabe, a midfielder on the team. McCabe noticed Palomino had athletic legs and invited her to try the sport.
Gaelic football originated in Ireland more than 100 years ago; the unique sport is a combination of volleyball, soccer and basketball. Women’s teams consist of 13 to 15 players who try to outscore opponents during 60-minute games, which are split into 30-minute halves. Players can take no more than four steps before they must move the ball. They may “solo” the ball (bounce it off the tip of their foot into the hands), “hop” the ball (bounce it on the ground) or pass the ball to a teammate (either by throwing or bouncing the ball off their hand). The objective is to score goals by throwing the ball past a goalie and into the net for three points, or over the net between two vertical poles for one point.
“I love that I can take skills I learned in other sports and apply it in Gaelic,” Palomino says.
The Celtic Cowboys’ season runs from February through August. They play locally at Zilker Park and face teams in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio before their season-ending national tournament in Boston later this summer. When she’s not on the field, she’s an account executive at start-up Enboarder.
Here’s how this footballer keeps outscoring her opponents.
“I start the day with French press coffee and meditation. Meditation centers me for the day. I also do a morning yoga or workout class a few days a week, and even if I’m not able to get a workout in, I still like to do something active such as taking a walk. I have ClassPass and use it for workout programs like Athletic Outcomes or Pilates because group exercise has a team element to it. Then, I drive to work.”
“The team practices together twice a week once we get in season. We used to workout with the men as well, but the sport got too popular. We broke into separate teams. Saturday practices are bigger and happen at Zilker Park at 10 a.m. We work on drills and scrimmages during that time and usually go for about an hour and a half. Gaelic uses several different muscle groups and I make sure to vary my workouts outside of practice. Cardio is super important, too. Just like with soccer, we can run several miles over the course of a game.”
“I limit alcohol during the week and enjoy challenges such as the 30-day no-drinking challenge. I also eat lots of veggies and greens. My favorite foods are spinach with eggs, roasted veggies, salmon and chicken. I try to avoid carbs and gluten.”
“We wear cleats both during practices and games. My cleats are Nike. Though Gaelic isn’t exactly a contact sport like rugby, there’s definitely some pushing similar to soccer and basketball—that’s why we wear mouth guards in games. We also have a game uniform with our sponsors. I will wear gloves when it’s rainy or wet outside because it gives me better grip on the ball.”
“Gaelic is fun, different and challenging. It’s never boring. Running around with your team creates exercise endorphins, and you get to do it outside at Zilker Park. What’s not to love?”
“You will make mistakes. Push through and laugh at yourself. It’s all about staying healthy and building mental toughness.”
“I typically spend evenings cooking with my boyfriend. We are both big on routines because we believe they set you up for a productive next day. We’ll make dinner and watch a show. One of our favorites is The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Before going to bed early, we drink tea. The tea we’re currently trying is called Yogi Bedtime.”