Jen Schroeder flies about 250,000 miles every year to train young female athletes.
Since graduating in 2009, the UCLA alumna and former NCAA softball player founded three companies across the United States. Jen Schro Incorporated, the Softball Performance Workshop and The Packaged Deal all work to positively develop young female students’ skills in softball and in life. Schroeder said she strives to empower young female athletes as a softball instructor, teaching them leadership and responsibility through sports.
“I think coaching isn’t necessarily about teaching somebody how to field a ground ball or throw a runner out. I think coaching somebody is about being their mentor,” Schroeder said. “I always say that I am a life coach disguised as a softball coach.”
Schroeder has been a metaphorical coach to three younger sisters from an early age, demonstrating hard work and leadership to them, she said. In her final year on campus, Schroeder started giving 30-minute softball lessons to two students at a corner space in Huntington Beach. But when word spread of her coaching, two students grew to 100 within the span of two months, leading her to start her companies, she said. The first, Jen Schro Incorporated, provides lessons in catching, organizes speaking events and plans to launch a line of catcher’s gear in August. Meanwhile the Softball Performance Workshop is an Anaheim facility that trains hundreds of softball students each week, Schroeder said.
One high school student, Kinzie Hansen, said Schroeder believed in her from the first time she walked into the Softball Performance Workshop. During a softball lesson, Hansen said they had to list out all their goals and what it would take to accomplish each one. Schroeder later met with Hansen in her office to formulate a plan on how to achieve her goals and encouraged her to make bigger ones.
“(Schroeder) always helps me realize the competence that I have within myself so it totally changed my perspective on life – as in, just work hard and give it all you have every single day,” Hansen said. “No matter what it is give 100 percent on the field, but give 100 percent in life in general.”
During group softball training, Schroder also has her staffers prepare the students to go into the work force. For example, even if a student’s parents are funding the lesson, she must schedule her own lesson and carry out the financial transaction herself when she checks out at the front desk. Schroeder said this teaches students how to be more responsible and transition into adulthood.
“We don’t just teach them how to throw a ball – we teach them how to look someone in the eyes, how to shake somebody’s hand. We teach them life skills,” Schroeder said. “Softball is merely the conduit that allows us to impact humans’ lives.”
Schroeder’s third company – The Packaged Deal – is a softball clinic that travels throughout the United States. Schroeder and her three co-founders conceived various intensive sessions that work on improving attendees’ performance in each position on the field, as well as their mindset and leadership skills.
Morgan Stuart, a co-founder of The Packaged Deal, said the name comes from their goal to combine life skills training with specific instruction for each position. The Packaged Deal website features “I am” phrases, followed by words such as “ready,” “powerful” and “creating a legacy.” Stuart said the founders strive to make the girls believe these statements about themselves through mastery of softball skills, resilience, leadership and communication.
“It’s not just skills and drills, it’s empowerment, it’s building confidence,” Stuart said. “It’s providing tools to build the whole player and not just one that’s a certain mechanic.”
Every summer, Schroeder also holds a catching retreat, which she staffs with 20 current collegiate softball players. Schroeder said it shows young athletes that the staff were also once little girls at a The Packaged Deal clinic, which helps the students believe they can also one day become collegiate athletes.
“I think girls getting to see a female leading, a female speaking, a female negotiating deals with Nike and ESPN … helps the younger generation know that they too can do that and be that,” Schroeder said.
Schroeder said it is important to her to hire only female coaches for The Packaged Deal so the girls can see an example of who they can strive to be when they grow up. Softball has primarily been coached by males, none of whom have actually played NCAA softball, she said. Schroeder said her own first female coach, Sue Enquist at UCLA, was her role model during her collegiate softball career.
Enquist said The Packaged Deal’s message of being anything you set your mind to allows femininity and athleticism to intertwine. Because female athletes are stereotyped as being less feminine, Enquist said The Packaged Deal works to change this culture by encouraging feminine and athletic qualities to coexist. As a result, the Packaged Deal tells female athletes that their natural personality, paired with a strong work ethic and attitude, is more than enough.
Schroeder said her mission to empower her students will always be the motivation in her work. She said her favorite part of coaching remains the moment when her students achieve a goal they previously thought they were incapable of accomplishing.
“Ultimately our core values really remain the same so if we can hone those in at a young age, then we’re setting a girl up for a lot of success when she’s older,” Schroeder said.