The pool of female coaches in male professional sports continues to grow—this time with the hiring of Jen Welter by the Arizona Cardinals as an assistant coaching intern for the training camp and preseason.
Welter will be working with inside linebackers and her hire makes her the first female coach in NFL history,
a distinction that comes just three months after the league announced referee Sarah Thomas would become the first female official in the NFL.
Welter, who played rugby in college and 14 years of professional football (primarily in the Women’s Football Alliance), also suited up as a running back for Texas Revolution, a professional indoor football league.
But it was after she made history as the first coach for a men’s pro team, joining the Revolution as a coach for linebackers and special teams in February of this year, that she caught Cardinals coach Bruce Arians’ eye.
When asked how he felt about Welter's efficacy in a male-dominated league, Arians expressed his full support via the team's website:
"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."
While Welter’s victory is historic, her limited role—preseason coaching intern, working with a niche position—has drawn some concern that her appointment is simply a move for some positive PR.
Despite the short tenure, it is a smart move toward something more permanent—Welter’s hiring is in line with a litany of coaching internships offered by NFL teams to test out potential assistant coaches.
Both the NFL and the NFL Player's Association offer coaching fellowships to coaching candidates and former players,
both of which have resulted in several interns moving into assistant coaching positions within the league.
Even NFL legends, such as Pittsburg Steelers cornerback and Hall of Famer Rod Woodson, rotate through coaching internships (often multiple).
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