Jen Welter, known as the first woman to hold a coaching position in the NFL, has made it her mission to encourage young girls to get involved in football. And next month, she is planning to do just that in a Chicago suburb.
Welter was a trailblazer for women in the football and the NFL. She coached inside linebackers for the Arizona Cardinals during training camp and the 2015 preseason.
Now, Welter’s is taking her experience and directing it toward a new generation of football players.
Welter is holding a girls flag football camp in Elgin on June 9 as part of her Grrridiron Girls flag football camp tour. The camp is intended for girls ages 6 to 18 and will be held at Westminster Christian School.
“This is an all-inclusive football camp,” Welter told the Sun-Times during a phone interview. “We know a lot of girl might be curious about football but not have an opportunity to play. So, the goal is to help them get confidence through football.”
While Welter — along with several other NFL alumni who have yet to be named — go over several throwing, catching and blocking drills, the main message of the camp is to empower the girls.
“I want everyone of these girls to know that there is no game that they cannot play and no field that they don’t belong on,” said Welter, who broke glass ceilings in 2014 as the first female to play running back in a men’s professional football league. “With the position I’m in, I want an opportunity to be hands on and present and connect with the girls.
“I’ve talked to girls all over the country who have heard the same things, ‘Girls don’t do that’ and ‘football is for boys’ … There’s no reason why the girls can’t be taught how to play football.
“A lot of them feel like an outsider because they wanted to play, but with these camps, they see the strength in numbers and that they’re not alone.”
The three-hour camp costs $40, but there are grants available for some participants.
Welter’s stop in Elgin is just one of several destinations for this summer. She has scheduled camps in San Diego, California, (June 3), Boston (June 24) and Washington D.C. (July 14).