The phrase “play like a girl” shouldn’t be seen as an insult, according to Jen Welter, who is the first woman to hold a coaching position in the NFL.
Welter played professional women’s football and now works as a sports psychologist, but she made history during her preseason coaching internship with the Arizona Cardinals in 2015.
She’s also a spokesperson for the Always #LikeAGirl initiative. The program seeks to boost the confidence of girls and young women by encouraging them to participate in sports.
“Puberty is such a hard time for girls,” Welter said. She added that Always found that seven out of 10 girls feel they don’t belong in sports. The same number of girls feel that society doesn’t support them in sports and that there aren’t enough female role models in sports.
“Even in my entire football career, I never once imagined that I could be a coach in the National Football League, because there was no girl that I could look at on the sidelines and say, ‘I want to be like her when I grow up,’” she said. “And now I know that every little girl can grow up with that dream.”
However, Welter spoke fondly of the key role that sports played in her adolescence. “For me personally, sports was a way to live my life confidently,” she said. As a spokesperson for Always, Welter hopes to give girls the same opportunities in sports that she had.
“To be able to increase that visibility as a female role model increases the possibility and hopefully the acceptability of [women] staying in sports and, like we say, truly playing like a girl,” she said.