There are competing ideas of thought on how best to go about viewing firsts in our modern consciousness. One says that we should celebrate them for being the first through the wall and prop them up to show that the world is supportive of the act. Another is that it should be accepted thoroughly and praised privately, but it should not turn into what is so often praise for the sake of praise and ignoring it to a degree is being the most accepting, because it is viewed as par for the course.
I won’t delve too deep into which side seems best, but whether you ascribe to the former or the latter, you’ll want to know who Dr. Jen Welter is. Let’s start with the fact that she is now (seemingly, but not proven) the first female coach of any kind in the history of the NFL. Welter accepted a position with the Arizona Cardinals as a “training camp/preseason intern coaching inside linebackers.”1 This is not a salaried, paid, or permanent position with the club, but it is an important step in showing that capable women belong as coaches.
Bruce Arians, Arizona’s Head Coach, said in March that a female will coach in the NFL when she can prove that she can make a player better. That opportunity is now before Welter. It isn’t the easiest thing to do. Trying to prove that you belong when you’re given a short opportunity as an intern is asking a lot. But much how Becky Hammon is now a plausible head coach candidate after successfully coaching the San Antonio Spurs in NBA Summer League, someone has to blaze the trail. For Hammon, it was a woman named Lisa Boyer who took an unpaid position with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2001-02.
Welter is not coming in as a token coach. She is a former women’s professional football player, former rugby player, and now a former paid coach in professional football (though not the NFL). The 37-year-old was a coach with the Texas Revolution of the Indoor Football League for their 2015 season spanning from February to July.
On top of her coaching experience, Welter was the first female to play a non-kicking/non-holding position in a professional men’s football game when she played running back in the 2014 preseason for the Texas Revolution.2 Finally, as the first appearance of her name in this article shows, she holds a PhD in Psychology and wrote her dissertation on the NFL’s Wonderlic test.
Here’s hoping Welter is as successful as Hammon has been, even if the hill is a bit steeper coming in as an intern.