In what has proven to be a banner year for women and coaching, the appointment of Dr. Jen Welter to the Arizona Cardinals coaching staff represents a tremendous milestone. While the NFL has seen women such as Amy Trask (Raiders) occupy a top executive position and Georgia Frontierre (Rams) and Serena Williams (Dolphins) take ownership roles, Welter is part of a new and exciting chapter.
Hired to serve in a coaching capacity during the Cardinals training camp and preseason, Welter, who earned her doctorate in sports psychology, shall work with inside linebackers. This follows a breakthrough season in which Welter was a member of the coaching staff for the Indoor Football League’s Texas Revolution.
During said season, the Revolution qualified for the league championship game. As a side note, Welter played for the Revolution in 2014, becoming the first female to play professional men’s football in a non-kicking role.
Making history as the first woman in NFL annals to have the title of coach bestowed upon her, it builds on the momentum of some great coaching milestones for women. Former quarterback Kessie Stefanyk became the first female head coach in the history of the Western Women’s Canadian Football League.
Complementing Welter’s remarkable contributions in the Lone Star State was former WNBA superstar and Summer Games participant Becky Hammon. As a member of the San Antonio Spurs’ coaching staff, she became the first female coach in the history of the NBA. Like Hammon, Welter is also an accomplished athlete, having played for the WFA’s Dallas Diamonds, the IWFL’s Houston Dynamo and a two-time IFAF World champion with Team USA.
During the NBA’s Las Vegas Summer League (in July 2015), she led the Spurs entry to a championship. As a side note, Nancy Lieberman (who once coached an NBA D-League men’s team in Texas) was part of the Sacramento Kings coaching staff during Summer League play.
Hired by Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians, his courage and foresight certainly deserve to be applauded. Not only was he one of the first to discuss the concept in the media(during the Owners Meetings in March 2015), but it is part of what promises to be an empowering year for the NFL, as the league hired Sarah Thomas to be the first female official in league play.
Covered by a diverse range of media outlets, including world-famous Cosmopolitan’s website, Welter has received an outpouring of love and support on social media as well, including the NFL’s Twitter account. Among the individuals that have congratulated Welter, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey was gracious enough to mention her on Twitter, welcoming her to the state, testament to her growing impact.