The Arizona Cardinals have hired Jen Welter, who is believed to be the first woman to hold an NFL coaching position of any kind, as a training camp/preseason intern working with the team's inside linebackers.
Head coach Bruce Arians was asked at the owners meetings in March about the possibility of female coaches in the NFL, and his response foretold this move:
“The minute they can prove they can make a player better, they’ll be hired,” Arians said.
Soon after that, he heard from a coach with the Texas Revolution in the Indoor Football League who told him about Welter, the former collegiate rugby player who played 14 seasons of pro football, mostly in the Women’s Football Alliance, and who was with the Revolution.
Arians was more than happy to give her a chance.
“Coaching is nothing more than teaching,” Arians said, per the team's official website. “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.”
Here's Welter's response on Twitter:
— Dr. Jen Welter (@jwelter47) July 28, 2015
Notice the "Dr." part? Yes, Welter is a heavyweight, it turns out. She has a master’s degree in sport psychology and a PhD in psychology. Welter also was the first female to play a non-kicking position in a men’s pro football league, spending time at running back and on special teams, for the Revolution in 2014.
This is a meritorius move, Arians said, not a publicity grab.
Arians said: “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,” adding that Cardinals veterans said “they were all very cool with it.”
“It’s not going to be a distraction in any way,” Arians said.
To anyone saying, "Well, she's only an intern ..." Please note: These are tough jobs to land. Not every team brings in training camp coaches/interns, and there are no more than 500 full-time coaching jobs in the entire NFL. It's exclusive company, and Welter has put herself there with her work and talent. Arians is one of the most bottom-line coaches in the NFL, but he's also a progressive thinker. Those two qualities married in this historic move.
It has been a banner year for women in men's professional sports. Not only is the NFL bringing on its first full-time female official in Sarah Thomas this season, but an NBA team — the San Antonio Spurs — won a summer league championship with Becky Hammon, whom they hired last year, running the squad.