Presidential visit tremendous point of pride for Dr. Jen Welter

One of the great milestones for any American-raised athlete is the privilege of being invited to the White House. A celebration of one’s glories on the intense field of play, simultaneously a tremendous moment of patriotic national pride, and such a visit is commemorated by an opportunity to rub shoulders with the President of the United States. Undoubtedly, for an athlete to gain an audience with the President signifies that one has truly arrived as a sporting icon, symbolizing a remarkable achievement and quite possibly, a great personal milestone.

In March 2015, Dr. Jen Welter was among a proud group of invited guests at the White House for Women’s History Month, a celebration that recognized the accomplishments of women in all facets of society. Having spoken to the White House Council on Women and Girls in the past, a group founded by President Barack Obama, Welter became a global celebrity after a preseason spent serving as the linebackers coach for the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals, an unprecedented first.

While medalists from the Summer and Winter Games, along with championships from all NCAA women’s sports gain the opportunity to visit the White House, such gatherings tend to be very large and do not allow much time for socializing. Welter would gain the opportunity to enjoy a chat with Obama, definitely an indication of her impact on the American sporting and social scene.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was reserved for Obama, who respectfully commented that he thought Welter would be much taller, as she was continuously handling up on the giants who grace the gridirons of the NFL. As Welter told ESPN, she laughed and replied that if she were taller, she would likely be playing basketball, which is also the President’s favorite sport. Shaking her hand, he was quoted as saying, “I love everything that you’re doing.”

Having taken a photo with Obama, a jubilant Welter finally received said photo in early May, immediately posting it with pride on her Instagram account. Perhaps even more cherished is the fact that he mentioned Welter twice in his speech, acknowledging her achievements and proclaiming her as a role model, mentioning that the glass ceiling does not exist anymore.

During Obama’s presidency, a unique parallel is the rising impact of women in sport, which has grown by a quantum leap in a very remarkable time. Among such achievements, the United States captured the FIFA Women’s World Cup, women have been inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, there have been two Women’s World Tackle Football Championships, baseball was contested as a medal sport at the Pan American Games, the first world women’s ice sledge hockey championships were played, professional leagues for hockey and lacrosse have started. The 2015 NFL season not only featured the presence of women such as Dr. Jen Welter and Sarah Thomas making their mark on history, with Welter coaching and Thomas officiating, there was also a Women in Football summit during the events leading up to the 50th Super Bowl.

Adding to such jubilation is the fact that Welter will be returning to the White House on June 14 for the United States of Women summit, where she will be speaking. As a side note, Welter’s visit represented another great chapter in the growing history of female athletes visiting the White House. Just a few months earlier, the victorious United States squad from the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup gained a photo of with President Obama that would have once been reserved for World Series champions. Undoubtedly, the respect for women and their prominence in society shall definitely stand as one of Obama’s greatest benchmarks as President, highlighted by their ability to make their mark as sporting icons.

Arizona Cardinals make history with empowering appointment of Dr. Jen Welter to coaching staff

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.

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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.

Jen Welter adds coaching milestone to historic legacy

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.

Image obtained from Facebook. Photo credit: John Breen

Image obtained from Facebook. Photo credit: John Breen

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.

Dr. Jen Welter adds to empowering football legacy with historic signing

One of the true living legends in American women’s football, Dr. Jen Welter has managed to shatter another barrier. On January 24, Welter would sign a contract to try out for the Texas Revolution of the IFL. A four-time world champion with the Dallas Diamonds (currently in the Women’s Football Alliance), Welter has also claimed two IFAF titles with Team USA.

Holding a jersey with her trademark number 47 adorning the front and back, Welter was all smiles at the press conference in Crest Cadillac of Plano. Joining her were head coach Chris Williams and general manager, former Oakland Raiders great, Tim Brown.

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A legendary linebacker in the realm of women’s football, Welter has been signed by the Revolution as a running back. Although it is a new position for Welter, it marks the first time that a woman has been signed by a men’s football team to compete at the running back position.

T-shirt highlighting support for Welter (Image obtained from: Facebook)

T-shirt highlighting support for Welter (Image obtained from: Facebook)

Of note, kicker Katie Hnida broke ground a few years earlier as the first female to compete in the Continental Indoor Football League. During the 2010 campaign, she was a member of the Fort Wayne FireHawks roster. Following in Hnida’s footsteps was Julie Harshberger. Despite being the second woman to participate in the CIFL, she would be the first to register a field goal. As a side note, WFA rival Lisa Horton played quarterback for the men’s semi-pro club, Pittsburgh Colts.

With a week-long training camp that begins on February 8, it does not allow Welter an adequate amount of time to learn the position. While many players on the team have indicated their support, there is no question that a roster spot shall be an earned one. As a former rugby player with Boston College, she certainly has the toughness to endure the physical demands that come with the position.

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Another advantage is the fact that with her muscular 5’2” frame, she has a low centre of gravity that should make her difficult to contain. As the famous wrestling announcer Jim Ross used to say, “It is not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.” No one can dispute that Welter has the heart of a giant, with the ambition to match.

Although it will be difficult to truly evaluate Welter’s potential in such a short time span, one of the great legacies of Welter’s career is her ability to help increase awareness of the female game. From her heartwarming blogs with USA Football to her vocation as a sports psychologist along with her involvement as a radio broadcaster, her career is the embodiment of what women can accomplish when given the chance.

At New York screening of the football documentary "The Tackle Girls" (Image obtained from: Facebook)

At New York screening of the football documentary “The Tackle Girls” (Image obtained from: Facebook)

She has also worked tirelessly to provide messages of empowerment to women about the game. From the friendships made on the football field to the positive reinforcement about body image, Welter has become more than just an influence for women, but a valued friend.

As the early years of the 21st Century continue to see women make a tremendous impact in all sports, Welter’s signing is reminiscent of Tiffany Brooks. A right-handed pitcher and first baseman, she would sign a contract to compete in the Independent League Baseball. It would make her the first female signed to play pro men’s baseball.

During Super Bowl week in New York City, Welter was one of several Team USA players that visited the Big Apple. Welter would have the privilege to be interviewed by legendary TV host Geraldo Rivera. From the corporate support shown by Verizon and DKNY (Donna Karan New York) where advertising campaigns showed women and football together, the female game is poised to enter a renaissance.

Being interviewed by Geraldo Rivera at the Sheraton New York (Image obtained from: Facebook)

Being interviewed by Geraldo Rivera at the Sheraton New York (Image obtained from: Facebook)

Whether the next chapter in Welter’s career will take place on February 15 in the Revolution’s season opener versus the North Texas Crunch is not the real story. The true tale is how it may help portray female football in a long overdue positive light, helping to associate women and the game in a manner which deserves to be seen as acceptable. In 1992, female goaltender Manon Rheaume did not make the final roster for the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning, but it inspired an entire generation of girls to compete in hockey. Welter is shattering a barrier which may be the catalyst towards inspiring girls to attempt a sport that they never dreamed possible.

Images by Brad Townsend/Dallas Morning News

2013 a landmark year for female football hero Dr. Jen Welter

As women’s football continues to work its way into the sporting conversation, there are a number of remarkable women helping to shatter barriers and challenge convention. At 5’3”, no one understands that role better than Dr. Jen Welter. Despite being undersized, she would craft a superb legacy in the sport as she was part of the US contingent that captured consecutive gold medals at the IFAF Women’s World Football Championships.

Having honed her athletic skills as a tennis player in her home state of Florida, she would eventually shine as a rugby star with the Boston College Eagles. It would serve as a springboard for a storied career on the gridiron that has consisted of four championships and eight All-Pro selections.

The opportunity to compete with the US at the 2013 IFAF Women’s World Championships has brought Welter a lifetime of new memories to treasure in a year to remember. She would finish as the third leading tackler for the US, her finest performance coming in the opening game versus Sweden. Part of the starting lineup for the game, she would also register two tackles for a loss. Only one of five women for the US contingent to record a sack, it would come against Sweden.

Image by Rashard D. Photography

Image by Rashard D. Photography

During the 2013 Dallas Diamonds season, Welter not only celebrated her tenth season with the club but continued to establish herself as a mainstay on the defense. Competing at the linebacker position (she has also played safety in the past), her 26 tackles tied for third on team with Alex Harvey.

Among those tackles, seven would be for a loss, tying her for fourth with Hanna Saari. Of note, Welter would also register one sack and one touchdown on the season. With one of the finest rosters in the Women’s Football Alliance, it came as no surprise that the Diamonds would qualify for the 2013 WFA National Title Game in San Diego against the Chicago Force. While the outcome did not present Welter with her fifth championship, the event helped to celebrate the women’s game. Considering so many members of the US team were with the Force, the entire contest had a feeling of friendship and admiration.

Her popularity has even reached into other exciting aspects of popular culture. Having helped film the teaser for the new reality show SWAT School, she would even assist with the Emergency Location Scout two days prior to the shoot. That is part of what makes Welter such a remarkable person; always willing to go the extra mile for the greater good.

While Dr. Welter’s future still consists of playing football, there is no question that she is more than able to tackle the world of men’s football. Whether it is at the collegiate or professional level, Welter is a tremendous hero who challenged the odds and overcame obstacles to be one of the finest at her position. The thought of Welter employed as a team counselor or even bringing her acumen to a front office position is one that would complement her intelligence, enthusiasm and love of the game.