Jen Welter just became the first female member of an NFL training staff. But our girl also has a Ph.D. and has played football with the best of the boys
Social media has been exploding today with some serious girl power news we can get behind: Yesterday, Jen Welter was hired by the Arizona Cardinals as an assistant coaching intern for NFL training camp, which makes her the first woman to hold any sort of coaching position on any NFL team.
As a training camp intern, Welter will be coaching the Cardinals’ inside linebackers. Her appointment is through the preseason and, while it's hopeful that the opportunity will turn into a permanent position, this is still groundbreaking news—Welter has proven that women can apply for and actually receive positions that have—whether intentional or not—traditionally been reserved solely for men. (18 Women in History Who Changed the Health and Fitness Game.)
Since its inception, the NFL has been a tight-knit, members-only boys club. Like the Little Rascals needed Alfalfa, the NFL needs Cardinals’ Head Coach Bruce Arians. Arians is a progressive thinker and has, luckily, no qualms about having a female coach. In fact, just a few months ago, at the 2015 NFL Owners’ Meeting, the coach was asked about the future of women in the NFL. He said one would be hired “the minute they can prove they can make a player better.”
And Welter has certainly proven herself. She was a member of Team USA at the IFAF (International Federation of American Football) Women’s World Championship, where the team took home gold in 2010 and 2013. After a 14-year career playing professional football in the Women’s Football Alliance, Welter both played for and then was hired by the Indoor Football League team, the Texas Revolution, making her the first woman to coach a men’s professional football league. (Check out these 20 Iconic Sports Moments Featuring Female Athletes.)
The NFL has less than 500 permanent coaching jobs and not every team hires coaching interns, so Welter's spot is incredibly sought after. And, while her credentials speak for themselves, Arians also has high hopes for her. “Coaching is nothing more than teaching. One thing I have learned from players is, 'How are you going to make me better? If you can make me better, I don't care if you're the Green Hornet, man, I'll listen.’ I really believe she’ll have a great opportunity with this internship through training camp to open some doors for her,” he said in the official Cardinals press release.
With a master’s degree in sports psychology and Ph.D. in psychology from Boston College, we'd say Welter’s educational background, combined with her past playing experience, makes her the perfect pick for a future full-time coaching position with any other team smart enough to snag her.
This is the second time this year the football league has made history. This spring, the NFL Announced Its First Female Referee, Sarah Thomas, would be a full-time official in the 2015-2016 season. We’re hoping that she won’t be the only female on the field come fall. Welter, though, is happy to have broken the barriers she has so far. In an interview last year with TODAY, Welter explained, “I want little girls everywhere to grow up knowing they can do anything, even play football.”
The NFL may still be a man’s world, but Jen Welter is proving you can be a successful, groundbreaking woman in it. Congratulations, Jen!