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GRIDIRON PROFILES

TELLING HERSTORY

PROFILES OF WOMEN CHANGING THE GAME

February, 2023

Herstory Made in Norway

Coach Jenny Widding.jpg

The Football Story of Jenny Widding

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Our foundation is proud to introduce second season Head Coach, Jenny Widding, who is - to the best of our knowledge - the VERY FIRST FEMALE HEAD COACH, OF A MEN’S TACKLE FOOTBALL TEAM, IN THE WORLD, TO WIN A NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP.

Hailing from the beautiful country of Norway, the Eidsvoll 1814’s championship mission was achieved on October 16th of this year - in a thrilling overtime finish - with a final score of 35-28.

The organization was founded by Kenneth Anderson in 1995.  They won their first D1 championship in 2001, another in 2013, and their most recent, with Coach Widding at the helm. The 1814’s are members of the NAIF. Their name is taken from the signing of the Constitution of Norway at Eidsvoll in 1814.

 

Here’s a bit more about Coach Jenny Widding’s journey to achieving HERstory…..

Jenny was first introduced to football in 1995 by a friend, in the country in which she grew up: Sweden. Women's tackle football teams didn’t exist at that time so Jenny followed and learned the (men’s) game from the sidelines and also practiced with them at times.
 

Fast forward 20 years to 2015: Jenny moved to Norway and became involved with the 1814’s when her children started playing football. Since that time, she has coached all age-groups within the organization. She loves the “mix between tactics, the x's and o's and the strength and athletic (ability) it takes to execute on the field.” Coach Widding believes “there’s no room for big egos,” especially in a game like football, where working together as a team is so essential to the successful execution of plays." The time and dedication it takes to be a good player and/or coach makes the dynamic within the team unique and that's something I've never found in any other team sport I've been involved with,” she says.

Jenny decided to put on the pads and play alongside women in 2017, when she was invited to coach at a training camp for the only woman's team in Norway at that time - the Vålerenga Trolls. Jenny admitted that she “put on the cleats and pads, mostly to show myself that I wasn’t too old to play!” In 2019, she “had the privilege of playing in the Swedish superserie (Super Series) with the Carlstad Crusaders” and together, they won a national championship.

Walking a mile in a player’s cleats, while time well spent, Coach Widding’s true love has always been coaching and teaching this incredible game. She is passionate about supporting players as they develop both their football skills and their life skills. Many of her current D1 Senior Elite players are those she has coached since they were young boys (11 and under). Jenny considers it an absolute privilege to have been a part of their lives for so many years. She is wholeheartedly committed to their overall personal development.

Offensive Coordinator Kris Ceballos , is in his third year with the 1814’s, and just finished out his first season in the OC role at the Elite Level (AND as a National Champion let’s no less)!! He’s been coaching with the organization in an official capacity since 2012. His first reaction to hearing that Jenny would be the next HC was, "This is the right choice! “I had been waiting for this news for a long time. Jenny has been a part of the group for many years and the team knows what kind of person and coach she is, so in a way we'd all been waiting for this news.” He also shared with us that, “there really is no difference in coaching alongside a man or a woman. Coach Jenny has the same qualities as other male coaches and some different approaches that make her a unique coach. She's proven that by winning the Norwegian Championship.” Kris adds that she brings so much to the table: “efficiency in all she does,” structure, she anticipates, is proactive, “and detail oriented in all of aspects” of the game including “off/preseason programs, teaching leadership and sports mentality.”

 

According to center Richard Queen – a U.S. D1 full scholarship American Import – “Jenny is extremely organized and does everything she can for the team, and that is exactly what a HC needs to do. When I found out from her – after she spoke to all of the players - that she was taking over as the HC, it was very natural. I knew she wanted the best for the team and I was excited to have a coach that really cared and wanted to win." “Jenny makes us work hard and takes no bull***t. She pushes us as a coach should.”

Coach Widding shared with me that the 1814’s earned their recent national championship title because every single person bought in to the mentality of doing whatever was best for the TEAM. Short-handed on coaches at the beginning of the season, Jenny stepped up as the HC in the opening game and the rest is HERstory. The opportunity to go to the next level isn’t always wrapped in a pretty package, but she chose to leap – without doubting herself or over-thinking it – and the “net appeared.” Jenny has had the respect of her players and from Day #1 and successfully drove home the message that playing every snap - no matter the score – as well as playing for the person next to you rather than yourself, could lead them to a winning season. Her players listened, bought in, and delivered on that message in epic fashion.

Jenny admitted to me that she is actually quite shy and doesn’t like any attention focused on her. Having said that, we agreed on the importance of sharing her story for the sake of the next generation of girls who can aspire to follow in her groundbreaking footsteps.

We say, “Here-Here” to another, beautiful round of “If you see her, you can BE her.”

Thank you for sharing your journey with us, Coach Widding. Congratulations to you, your coaching staff and your players on your 2022 Norwegian Championship Title. We wish you continued successful growth and a great 2023 season ahead!!

 

-- Dana Sparling

WGF Executive Director

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