Many of us were told while we were growing up that we could do anything we wanted to as long as we set our mind to it. Whether it was a doctor, teacher, police officer or for many, a professional athlete, our teachers and parents instilled the hope that anything was possible despite race, sex, shape and size. Although we still encourage this same belief amongst today’s youth, recent media coverage and various TV programs make it seem as if anything is possible as long as you fall under certain categories. Despite the progress that female professional sports have made over the last 10-15 years, a recent surge of housewife-based reality shows have taken over many airwaves and to many are seen as a major set back and cause for concern in regards to today’s younger female demographic.
Jen Welter is a linebacker for the Dallas Diamonds of the Women’s Football Alliance, a women’s professional football league in the United States. She has been playing professional football for over 10 years and throughout her journey has been a vocal advocate for the importance of positive female role models within society and the overall benefit of self-confidence.
“I don’t have any kids but if I had a daughter I’d be mortified at what they see in the media as far as the women that are depicted on TV and stuff. Here are theKardashians, the Basketball Wives, the Real Housewives and all of those are highlighting women as a by-product of what somebody else has done,” Welter stated. “I want girls to know that they can grow up and do whatever it is they want to do and to live their lives with passion, drive, dream and desire and not to just rely on their life being an outcome of who they marry or who their father is,” she continued.”I want girls to know that athletics is a venue where they can excel, especially in football. I think it’s a beautiful sport for women to see other women playing.”
Being self-confident is a trait that Jen Welter attributes through her love for football. Confirming self-trust leads to motivation and momentum for every professional athlete aspiring to reach their goals and it is something Welter conveys to the numerous young females she speaks with.
“It’s so hard for me to see how many women are hard on themselves in terms of physical appearance. Sports are something that can make you feel good. It’s about saying I don’t train to get attention from a guy I train to be good at my sport and there’s a very big difference when you do it for yourself,” explained the Boston College graduate. “For most women, if they have worked out it’s usually been in the form of trying to make themselves into something that’s appealing for somebody else which means that your self-confidence is coming from an external source and you can’t control that,” she added. “But if your confidence is in you, what you do and who you are then that’s something that’s always under your control and it’s a big thing for females and I don’t think that message gets conveyed to them enough.”
Combining sports and athletics with the messages behind her words, Jen Welter has worked to tackle various issues from teen pregnancy to gang relation or drug use. By introducing and excelling teens interest in not only sport, but the gratification and enjoyment of self health care whether it be physically or physiological, Welter stresses the importance of focus and drive.
“Kids coming up through high school need to realize that in order to make your dreams come true you need to be willing to make some sacrifices because you’re not going out partying all the time like your friends are, you’re choosing to dedicate your time to the pursuit of your dream,” she elucidated.
“You have to be willing to put some of those selfish gratifications aside in order to pursue your career. For me, people ask me why I don’t have kids but to me as an athlete that’s a game changer. If I have kids it will change the course of my athletic career. ‘Am I ready to hang up my cleats to have kids?’ It’s a decision I don’t take lightly,” clarified Welter.
It is no secret that women’s professional football is hidden in the shadows of the NFL or other various men’s leagues, including the college and high school levels. There are no flashy cash rewards or nice cars and houses like many of us see on TV in the news and on the Internet. The players that make up the Women’s Football Alliance play for the love of the game. There is no other incentive or hidden agenda. As one of the top ranked players in the world, Welter says she still faces many obstacles in regards to her status in the entire world of football.
“I’ve coached at men’s football clinics, but you have to prove yourself on many levels. As a female I have to prove myself even though I’ve played as much as I have. I’ve had guys tell me that I can’t hit or tackle, guys who have never played, it’s insulting in a way but sometimes you just have to be better,” she said.
In a sport dominated by men, Jen Welter has stepped up and become a positive voice for all woman, sports oriented or not. She has spent countless hours dedicated to the sport and causes she loves. Her inspiration reaches more than just the girls she motivates as she tells all youth to stand up for what they believe in. She joins a list of heroes encouraging youth to go against the grain and be who they desire to be, regardless of what or whom they see around them.
For more information on Jen Welter or the Dallas Diamonds, visit www.jenwelter.com