Jen Welter is a name that has suddenly come to the attention of many sports fans across the nation for one surprising reason. She’s the first woman to hold a coaching position for an NFL team. There has been a sudden storm around her about it. The full details will be included below including how most of what makes it a big deal is that it really isn’t such a big deal.
How She Came to This Position
Jen Welter coached linebackers and played running back for the Texas Revolution, a men’s professional arena football team. Plus she has a Ph.D. in Psychology. This unique skillset has made her a good coaching candidate in the NFL. Like any other job, she applied, interviewed well, and was hired. Over the summer, news broke about this and was immediately dissected by people from all ends of the analysis spectrum. As the media will tend to do, it made mountains out of mole hills simply to try and drum up ratings during a relatively quiet time for sports.
She Was a Summer Coaching Intern
She was hired to assist with the coaching of inside linebackers. That’s what she did. She did it in her own way, just like anyone else. Much has been made of her practice of placing notes on the lockers of her guys before games. She would give them a few words of motivation or mindfulness right before it mattered. She says she did it because it was something that she always wanted as a player. That’s what good coaching is about.
She No Longer Works for the Organization
From the start the position was outlined as being a summer internship and that’s what it turned out to be. As of the writing of this column, Welter’s contract has come to its fruitful conclusion and no new contracts are in the works. According to several interviews, she has made it clear that she enjoyed her time and would love to continue working in the NFL, should someone be willing to hire her.
Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians spoke positively about Welter after the internship was over, claiming that he would “love to have her back.”
Whether all NFL teams would be as receptive as the Arizona Cardinals were, is something of a mystery. Ultimately, like in most organizations, all that matters is whether a candidate can gel with the group’s culture and has something that it can bring to the table that they’ve been missing.
It Was Bigger in Headlines Than on Sidelines
Many of the players found her to be a good and positive influence. Several of them took to social media to emphasize this. She did her job. Once it was complete, there were some more ripples about what it would mean for the future of the sport. It most likely means that the sport is no different than it was before she coached. The major differences are rhetorical. The game gets to hold its head high and claim a spirit of inclusion while continuing to try and become the most dominant sport in the world.
The day after Jen Welter retired, she had a jersey put into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, joining many other popular past players whose jerseys remain popular. She will go down in history, being remembered as putting positive vibes into the organization for a time. Eventually there will be a female coach, not intern, in the NFL. Regardless of whether it’s Welter or someone else, it will continue to be notable only insofar as how a person performed at a new and particular position.
Just like with any other person, fans will welcome the female coach if she performs well and the team wholeheartedly welcomes her. In spite of it being a testosterone-filled arena, it’s perhaps the most, of any industry, that’s concerned exclusively with product. Do they get the job done and how well?
So, Jen Welter will go down in history as an underwhelming barrier breaker. This is largely because women holding positions of authority and providing positively to an organization in a meaningful and substantive way isn’t new. It just happens to be new for the NFL.