Cleat Geeks

Women of Sports: Chelsea Alt

Chelsea Alt is blazing trails and clearing obstacles for women’s football. She is a six year veteran and is currently getting ready for her upcoming season with the Madison Blaze, a semi-professional women’s tackle football team located out of Madison Wisconsin.

I first heard of Chelsea Alt in 2014. Coach Greg Washington of the Monona Warriors, a semi-professional men’s football team in the Mid States Football League (MSFL), reached out to me. Coach Washington was super excited to share with me that his team finally found a kicker – a really good, accurate kicker. He was also excited to share with me that I would no longer be the only woman in the league, because his new kicker was also female. He then asked me to reach out to his new recruit to make sure that she felt comfortable in her new surroundings.

Later that day, I sent Chelsea a message introducing myself. After a few minutes of some back and forth messaging with her, I knew that she was definitely more than ready to be on the team and that I probably would not hear from her until we played against each other later that summer.

Fast forward to a few months later . . . Shortly after winning the Founder’s Bowl with the Madison Blaze, Chelsea suited up to play the rest of the season with the Monona Warriors. Not only would she handle the kicking duties, she would also see action at Wide Receiver, including a 10 yard catch and run on her first catch for the Warriors. That 10 yard catch just so happened to be during the game where our teams played against each other.

As I was warming up before our game, Chelsea got ready on the other half of the field. She took the field with complete confidence, rocking a low ponytail pulled back under a flat billed hat with her headphones on, going through her routine. She stood out, but blended in with her new team.

I stopped kicking to stretch, and mostly watch Chelsea warm up. It’s not every day that being a woman on a men’s football team, that you run into a team with the same scenario. I was nervous and excited all at the same time. It’s a weird feeling – wanting to make sure you play at your best or match the level of your opponent, but at the same time rooting for them to be great. And great is just what Chelsea was that game. She didn’t just do her kicking duties, she also lined up at Wide Receiver. She ran a receiver screen and ran 10 yards and then was forced out of bounds. It was awesome!

I recently interviewed Chelsea and asked her the following questions:

Q: Playing soccer since you were six years old, did you ever imagine those skills would lead you to a career in professional football?
A: Absolutely not. My childhood was spent dreaming of being a professional soccer player; football was never even a thought in my mind because it was “for boys”. I watched my brother play, my father coach, and of course the Green Bay Packers play every Sunday, but it wasn’t until the opportunity presented itself that I truly thought about playing football.

Q: Six years ago, when a Madison Blaze player asked you to hang a flyer for a women’s football tryout at your place of employment, what made you decide to tryout?
A: It’s a funny story; I thought she was handing me a flyer for men’s football and since I had just moved to Madison, I got excited to go watch/meet some guys playing football. Turns out it was for women. I immediately said “I want to play!” and all of my coworkers encouraged me to do so. A week later, I was at my first practice.

Q: This was your first football tryout ever. Did you fall in love with the sport right away? Did you ever question yourself about what you were doing?
A: I fell in love instantly; football is a sport that is unlike any other. I never questioned myself, but people around me thought I was crazy and doubted my ability to play. My father questioned me and asked me to play a safer sport, but all of the doubt just fueled my fire. I knew from day one that this was my new passion and I was going to succeed at it and prove everyone wrong.

Q: 2010, your rookie season, you made the team as Tight End. Soon after that, your pass catching performance during practice earned you the nickname “Spidey”, as you caught every pass thrown your way. What helped you develop your hand/eye coordination?
A: My hand eye coordination comes from my childhood being filled with nothing but sports. I played soccer, softball, and basketball; all sports that involve a lot of hand eye coordination and attentiveness to where the ball is at all times. At recess, I played sports, after school, I played sports, on rainy days, I was in the basement or garage still playing sports. I was somehow always “practicing”.

Q: In your fifth season, you played Wide Receiver, Linebacker, and you were a three time all-star kicker for the Madison Blaze. You were not only 15-18 on extra point attempts, but you also ran in a two point conversion against the Wisconsin Warriors. You mentioned in a previous interview that the greatest moment of your career was when all of the hard work from the 2014 season paid off and together as a team the Madison Blaze won the Founder’s Bowl in South Carolina. Has anything changed that answer?
A: (I’ve now been an all-star for 4 out of 5 seasons) Winning the Founders Bowl and taking home a ring was definitely a huge highlight of my football career, but I’d have to say my most recent accomplishment of scoring five touchdowns in one game tops it all. Coming into my fifth season, I had never scored a touchdown before, all of sudden our coaches switched up our offense and gave our receivers a chance . . . next thing you know, I’m not only scoring my first touchdown, but I’m breaking through tackles left and right and scoring FIVE touchdowns in one game.

Q: How do you balance work, football, and your personal life?
A: Balancing everything is definitely one of the hardest aspects of playing football. Everyone gives all the credit to the NFL players, but Women’s football is where I see the true dedication and love of the game. I use every single hour of vacation/leave time that I am given at my job to ensure that I can make it to practice/games. My extra money earned is used for equipment and travel for games. My social life consists of my teammates and fundraising activities. It’s no joke when people say football is life. My life literally revolves around football and it’s all for the love of the game.

Q: When asked, what do you believe is the most important thing to take to the playing field? You explained, “I believe that confidence is the most important thing when taking the field. Not just personally, but as an entire team. Football is a team sport that is just as much mental as it is physical. We are as strong as our weakest link; every person needs to feel confident that they can do their job on the field or we won’t perform to our full capacity.” How do you as a teammate help make sure that your team maintains confidence?
A: Support, encouragement, and positivity are all keys to helping my teammates stay confident. It comes down to the fact that we’re all there to do one job. Whether you’re on the sideline or on the field, every player plays an important role in the game and it’s vital to always remember that.

Q: On game day, what is playing on your head phones?
A: My game day play list is probably the most random list of songs ever, it ranges from hardcore rap to random old school songs. It’s all about feeling good and getting pumped up. I once controlled the music in the locker room until I played songs like “Never Say Never” by Justin Beiber and Jayden Smith. Haha

Q: For a big game, like the Founder’s Bowl, is there anything different you do to get prepared for the game, or do you keep the same pregame ritual?
A: I usually keep my pregame ritual fairly simple, I try and relax and zone in on some music before taking the field. But, my pregame ritual for home games is to always watch the movie “The Little Giants” the night before. When I first started playing football my number was 56 and that’s simply because the girl in The Little Giants (Ice Box) is a girl I’ve always admired. Not only does her entire team overcome unexpected obstacles throughout the movie, but so does she – just as a girl playing football with the guys. People doubt her and question her playing football, but she overcomes those doubts and ends up doing what she loves and succeeds at it. Something I compare my football career to.

Q: What made you join the men’s team?
A: I was the ball girl at the Monona Warriors game one time and that game in particular they lost by a field goal. Many people approached the coach at the time and said they needed a kicker and that I was the perfect person to bring on to the team but . . . he couldn’t even entertain the thought of having a girl as his kicker (his loss). A year later, I got a message from Greg Washington of the Monona Warriors asking me to come on as their kicker. For me, there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to do it. It was another chance at bettering my game and another chance at simply doing something I love, so I committed.

Q: Playing on a men’s team, are there noticeable differences in the speed of the game? The physicality? Getting tackled?
A: The intensity is definitely higher, the men are out there to “kill” and the hits SOUND harder, but I have never actually been tackled during a men’s game. My teammates treated me like a little sister so when I was out there catching the ball, they blocked liked they’ve never blocked before in order to protect me.

Q: Not very many females have been a position player for both a men’s and women’s tackle football team. Did you notice a difference between the two, i.e., team dynamic and so on? If so, what were those differences? If not, what were the likenesses?
A: Surprisingly, the two are very similar. I expected a lot of differences but that was definitely not the case. Both teams have a strong bond and support system, the coaches hold the same expectations, both teams have intense passion and dedication, and both teams face and overcome the same obstacles.

Q: You have been quoted saying, “There’s something about the game, the family, and the life lessons that continue to make me come back season after season.” What do you tell girls who ask you for advice when it comes to playing football?
A: DO IT! Nothing and no one should stop a girl from playing football. It’s an amazing experience that will change your life completely. It’s a great way to stay in shape, gain confidence, meet amazing people, and learn countless life lessons that you don’t learn in the “real world”.

Photo by Leah Durtschi

Q: What is your outlook for the upcoming season?
A: My outlook is extremely optimistic. Somehow every year, I become more and more anxious and excited for the season to start. We have a new wave of rookies, new additions to our coaching staff, and veterans that continue to improve every day. Our team overall, improves year by year and I strongly believe this could be the year we bring home the Championship.

Q: Tryouts for the Madison Blaze are just around the corner. Who should try out for this team and why?
A: Anyone and everyone should take a chance with the Madison Blaze. We’re a family and we accept girls of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds. Whether you’ve never watched football a day in your life or if you’re a football expert, we’ll teach you everything you need to know and give you an experience of a lifetime. Once you’re a member of the Blaze family, you’ll forever be a part of us and I promise you’ll keep coming back for more. (Madison Blaze information can be found here)

To keep up with Chelsea, check out her Athlete Facebook Page, Hudl, or follow her on Instagram.

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