Arizona Cardinals’ Jen Welter Makes History By Becoming The 1st Female NFL Coach

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The first thing that came to mind when we read the awesome news that Arizona Cardinals’ Jen Welter just became the first female coach in the NFL was the “Like A Girl” advertising campaign that was spearheaded by Always, and has now been picked up by mainstream society as a new discourse on the ability of women by changing a statement that was previously used as an insult into something empowering.

ESPN reports that back in March, Arizona Cardinals football team head coach Bruce Arians was asked when the NFL would have a female coach.

“The minute they can prove they can make a player better, they’ll be hired,” he said in a statement reiterating that it’s about football, not gender stereotypes.

Well it seems he has made good on his word because he hired Jen Welter as an assistant coaching intern for training camp and the preseason to work specifically with linebackers, aka the big guys.

Jen is a former collegiate rugby player who played 14 seasons of pro football, mostly in the Women’s Football Alliance. She also holds a master’s degree in sport psychology and a PhD in psychology, was the first female to play a non-kicking position in a men’s pro football league when she played running backs and special teams for the Texas Revolution (indoor football league champions) in 2014. She also won two gold medals playing for Team USA in the International Federation of American Football Women’s World Championship in 2010 and 2013. So she ain’t just a random hire, this woman knows a thing or two about the game.

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Coach Bruce Arians has high hopes for Jen and knows the significance of hiring her as the first female NFL coach.

“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 a statement.

“She came for an OTA and I met her, and I thought she was the type of person that could handle this in a very positive way for women and open that door,” he added.

Jen’s new role at the Cardinals is part of a growing list of women in sports who are breaking barriers in areas where no woman has gone before. In the NBA, Becky Hammon made history by becoming the first female in any coaching position when she was appointed assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs. She was also appointed the coach of the Spurs Summer League Team and made history again by becoming the first female coach to win the NBA Summer League Championship.

Hmmm, it is becoming increasingly clear that this whole “like a girl” thing is more powerful than ever.

Jen Welter isn’t just breaking a gender barrier in a major sporting league, she is also helping shape the public narrative for an organization that over the past few years has been dogged with damaging reports about players and officials covering up and perpetrating acts of violence against women. Fans have lashed out at the NFL for the mismanagement of this issue, calling for commissioner Roger Goodell to step down after the way he handled the Ray Rice case.

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The NFL’s sexual assault and violence against women problem is not solved or softened by any means by one team hiring a female coach, but perhaps it should be a wake up call that their female audience is a significant part of their fan base and addressing issues of gender violence is not an option.

It is estimated that women now make up 45% of the NFL’s more than 150 million American fans and represent the biggest demographic for growth especially given that the majority of advertising campaigns in the world today are directed at us.

With the introduction of a female presence on the coaching staff of a major team, this could potentially have a drastic effect on how the sport is perceived in the future. No longer as simply a “man’s game” but a sport that doesn’t discriminate based on gender and offers opportunities for the best and most talented (regardless of your sex). For the female audience to continue to grow and trust the NFL, it has to recognize covering up major issues of violence in favor of keeping a star player on a team is not what fans want to see.

We’re excited to see how Jen does throughout the preseason and hope her presence on the field will send a loud and clear message to all female football fans – this is your game too!

Check out what she had to say in a press conference about her new job:

3 Comments

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