The Jen Welter Experience: NFL’s First Female Coach

By now everybody is pretty familiar with the Jen Welter story. Just in case you’ve been living under a rock the past 5 or 6 weeks- we will review. Right before the Arizona Cardinals training camp began, news broke that they were bringing in a female intern to coach with the team’s L.B. unit. This was unheard of in the NFL, not exactly sure why… just kidding, we all know why. Most people wouldn’t even consider this because NFL football is a man’s game in a man’s world. Even with the female fan base growing at an extremely rapid rate, nobody was on the front page calling for females to be implemented into coaching jobs. We do have the first female referee Sarah Thomas which was big break through in the NFL but that was a hire that came from the League, not a team.Jen Welter Then there is Becky Hammon who had just taken the NBA Summer League title, proving that the knowledge of the game can cross over the gender lines many thought were forever defined. I watched some of those games- I particularly remember as she (sorry to say) out coached my Phoenix Suns team with the match ups that she put on the floor. All this was happening right before the Jen Welter announcement. Timing is everything in this fast paced age of short attention spans. So all of these accomplishments were being strung together as soon as Jen Welter took the podium at the Cardinal’s presser. Speaking of the Cardinals, I believe Arizona was the perfect setting for the Jen Welter experience. Bruce Arian’s is credited for the invite, he wanted someone with knowledge and experience. The head coach was very quick to reassure anybody asking about the seriousness of the internship. He said the interns were there to coach and that the program was designed to eventually land the interns in real NFL jobs. Further more, the Cardinal’s President (and son of the owner) Michael Bidwill was recently appointed as Chairman on the newly assembled NFL Conduct Committee, which has two women (Dee Haslam and Charlotte Jones Anderson) on it’s nine member panel.DR Jen Welter So we had the amazing timing, we had the perfect place, the supporting cast… all that was needed was the perfect candidate. Enter Jen Welter, I could go into lengthy detail on what I saw in training camp but I’ll just try using one word. RESPECT. I saw a lot of respect going on. Welter showed her respect for the game and it’s fundamentals. She showed respect for the players and used her experience and skill set to teach and to motivate them. I saw nothing that resembled “a distraction”. I think she brought something that they could all identify with- the struggle to be great and how hard it is to make it to this level. Jen_Welter25She also brought something to the locker room that I’ve never seen, and that’s a woman’s touch. Bruce Arians has a “Coach them hard, hug them later” philosophy when it comes to his relationships with players. The players respond very well to Arians. They know what is expected of them and they know where they stand with the coach at all times as he doesn’t sugar coat anything. Jen Welter on the other hand does things her own way. She doesn’t hesitate to let players know that she cares about them. She took the time to write inspirational notes and put them in the player’s lockers. Jen quickly formed very strong bonds in a very short period of time.

The players in return responded with their full on acceptance, full attention, and most importantly their respect. Arizona safety Tyrann Mathiew, aka “The Honeybadger” has had a rocky road to the the top himself, I think he said (or tweeted if you will) it best when he posted a picture of them together with the caption “HerStory & HisStory”.

Game respect game right? Simply put, “Dr. J” handled her assignment well. Some may label it as just an internship but the truth is she not only opened the door, she left it wide open for herself and others. As far as impact goes, I just think of all the little girls out there that are going to be coaching in the NFL one day.

Images By: Mike Yduarte and Scott Photography

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