Not Your Average Charlee

By Dr. Jen Welter

In the picture below, you will see a young football player, lining up to tackle a football dream. Charlee sees no limits, just another football to go after and another play to make.

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Obviously, a love for football is one that many kids like Charlee grow up with, and, just like so many youth, Charlee has a role model in the game.

As you are reading this, you are probably saying, “this sounds like the beginning of a story I have heard a million times,” an initial assessment that would be on par with the consensus. What makes Charlee and her story anything but average, however, and why this story is an important one to share, is because Charlee is not your average football player. She is a girl and her role model is a girl, too. I am her role model.

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When I grew up, I did not have the opportunity to play football, and I never had a role model I could look up to in the game. Littered with obstacles, it was a challenging place to be, and one I would have strayed from had my heart not been wholly invested in it. Today, when Charlee stands on the sidelines or on the field, she sees and feels opportunity. She, and every other girl who loves the sport, is growing up in a world where a glass ceiling no longer exists on the gridiron.

Charlee’s dad is one of her greatest supporters. He reached out to me via Twitter with the following picture and caption:

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How could I not fall in love with Charlee? I responded to her dad, and after a few notes back and forth, we arranged a call. What a wonderful little girl. What great questions, and what a brilliant take on the world. And what a gift it was to get to see the world through Charlee’s eyes.

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Talking to Charlee, hearing her questions and reading her subsequent report, taught me so much. I think we can all learn a lot from her, so I wanted to share what Charlee’s research taught her about my journey.

First, here’s an excerpt from her report:

Many people in the world are jealous of Jen Welter’s position and therefore sent rude and negative things that are trying to prove that men are better than women in every shape and form even though they aren’t! She overcame this wall by standing up for herself and on live international TV telling and asking people to stop. This plea was surely heard because Vice President Joe Biden sent out a tweet saying “breaking barriers and reaching new heights. Congratulations to Jen Welter. This is what progress looks like.” To me and many others she shows grit in every way and honestly is my true inspiration.

I love that Charlee found inspiration, not only in the accomplishment itself or the “title and position,” but also in the obstacles involved in getting there and the opposition faced along the way. I love that a precedent has been set, and that she has someone to admire in football, because that was something I never had – someone I never had. The power in breaking any glass ceiling does not stem from the act itself, but the impression it leaves on every little Charlee out there. She gets to line up on the field with the belief that she can tackle any opposition – in football and in life.

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May we continue to break through glass ceilings, so that our children grow up with inspiration and the opportunity to believe in a life filled with possibility and without gender-imposed limits.