As one of the most influential women in sport, Dr. Jen Welter is continuing to add to her groundbreaking legacy. The two-time IFAF World gold medalist shall return to the Texas Revolution, the club that propelled her into the national spotlight. Serving in a coaching capacity, she becomes the first female coach on a professional men’s team. It is an accomplishment that adds to an already meaningful year for women in football, as Sarah Thomas was recently hired as the first female official in NFL history.
Dr. Welter is NOT the first female coach on a men’s team, though she IS likely the first female coach on a PROFESSIONAL men’s team. Women have been coaching boys from Pop Warner to the HS level for quite some time, and a few have coached in college over the years. Dr. Welter’s USWNFT teammate Knengi Martin has been head coach of the boys football team at San Diego HS since last season, and a Tennessee high school appointed their softball coach as the head football coach early during last season as well.
After competing for the Revs in 2014, becoming the first woman to play in a contact position against male competitors, Welter is ready to make new history in 2015. With Pro Football Hall of Famer Tim Brown serving with the Revs front office, it is testament to the impact of such an exciting hire. Perhaps more importantly, Welter’s efforts shall open the door for another area of much-needed growth among the women of football.
While more women grace the gridiron every year, the influence of women in coaching is still an area in need of development. Although it is essential for the long-term growth of the game to see women handle the coaching reigns, it is understandable that it may not be an immediate transition. Once more experienced players retire from the game; the logical transition to coaching should result in a discrepancy that shall correct itself.
Currently, there are encouraging signs that such progress is gradually occurring. Canada’s two most prominent female football league, the MWFL and WWCFL welcome female head coaches in the 2015 campaign. In Alberta, the WWCFL’s Lethbridge Steel have appointed former player Kessie Stefanyk as the first female head coach in franchise history.
As one of the MWFL’s signature franchises, the Saint John Storm sees Lisa Harlow taking the coaching reins. Of note, Harlow was a member of Team Canada at the inaugural IFAF Women’s World Football Championships, and actually played against Welter, who was a member of the gold medal winning American contingent. Considering that Harlow was also the first player inducted into the Storm’s Ring of Honor, the head coaching opportunity only adds to her sterling impact in franchise history.
The momentum of such ground breaking coaching announcements only adds to the feelings of empowerment that Welter brings to her new role as a football coach. There is no question that Welter provides credibility as well to the possibility that a woman could one day serve on an NFL coaching staff. Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians discussed the possibility with various media outlets, adding to such promise in the future.
Instilling a young generation of women with the values of resilience and perseverance, Welter continues to bring an energizing enthusiasm to the game. Among a group of athletes nominated for All Sports United’s Humanitarian Award, which includes an online vote for ten All-Stars of Giving, such recognition is testament to her positive impact on others lives. Even for people that are not football fans, part of them must be rooting for this heartfelt and profound hero. Helping to lead the way towards a golden age for women on the gridiron, Welter is not only helping to transform the game, but transcending cultural impact.