Family and football are two things that are central in my life, but they are often independent of each other.
I’ve made a conscious effort to not push my kids in that direction, or any specific direction. My hope is that they will try a lot of things, eventually find whatever their true passion is, and make it their own — not because it’s their dad’s favorite.
The idea is to embrace the journey and cast a wide net.
Now it’s taking us somewhere new (but familiar for me): A football field.
The organic nature in the way it unfolded, the kindness of the people involved, and a longtime NFL coach opening the door to a female coach — and how that can now have a positive trickle-down effect on girls like my 9-year-old daughter Talia — is the root of the motivation to share this story.
After our walk to school earlier this week (neat picture snapped by a friend at left) we learned that a classmate had lost her football that had been signed by Dr. Jen Welter at a Wounded Warriors game in our hometown from last fall.
The football had added meaning because it included the signature of Welter, who made history in 2015 when former Cardinals coach Bruce Arians hired her for training camp and the preseason to work with the team’s inside linebackers. Welter was believed to be the first-ever female coach hired to join an NFL coaching staff, and she is a shining example to any young girl that barriers can be broken.
Our goal was to get that football back, and thanks to a connection through ESPN NFL Nation Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss, contact was made with Welter, who couldn’t have been happier to deliver a new football. But then she suggested the possibility of something even better: Maybe handing it off in person — at her flag football camp for girls Sunday in suburban Boston (the timing was perfect).
“Come be my guest, I’ll sign a football and teach her some too … and I’m happy to have any other special girls,” she said.
As you read this, picture a minivan loaded with four 9-year-old girls headed to a flag football camp to learn more about the game and hear an inspirational message from Welter, who writes that her “purpose is to empower young women to play BIG, dream bigger and provide the gameplan to turn their dreams into a reality.”
The girls are excited, but I’m not sure as much as the person who will be driving them there.