COACH POSITION: Earlier this month Kathryn Smith became the first female full-time coach in the NFL. After years of serving in various assistant capacities she will be a quality control assistance coach for the Buffalo Bills. She will analyze tapes and data, compile statistics, and provide reports for the Head Coach so that he will know what he will be facing in the next game. During the game she will continue tracking plays.
CHIEF EXECUTIVE POSITION: Amy Trask, who began her career as an intern with the Oakland Raiders is now their chief executive. Aside from some team owners, no other woman ranks higher than she does in the NFL.
ON THE DISAPPOINTING SIDE: Jen Welter, whose five-week internship with the Arizona Cardinals has ended, was not picked up as a fulltime coach. She spent 14 years playing professional football, including in a men’s league where she was the First Woman in a non-kicking position. She still hopes to be picked up, if not by the Cardinals then by another team.
Jen Welter is the first woman coach in NFL history. As announced a few weeks ago, her position with the Arizona Cardinals is temporary, an internship, but still a remarkable achievement. Full credit goes to head coach, Bruce Arians, who justifies the hire by saying, “Coaching is nothing more than teaching.” He and Welter believe the inside linebackers will respond to her when they see their playing improve.
Welter’s background prepared her for this role. First of all, she knows football from the inside. Her experience included fourteen seasons of play in several women’s football league teams, earning her gold medals in international competitions. In 2014 she became the first woman running back for a male professional football team, The Texas Revolution of the Indoor Football League. Until she earned this position, women had played with men only as kickers. She was the first to play full body contact football with the guys. She was also a special teams and linebacker coach with the Revolution, the first woman in a coaching position for a men’s team.
Welter brings something else to the game that many (or perhaps all?) male coaches do not. She has a Ph.D. in psychology. “I want to help guys realize football is as mental as it is physical,” she says, “and that I’m invested in their future. When guys know they are cared about as a person, not just a player or a commodity, they will absolutely play harder.”
Welter understands she is a role model. She noted that, even after winning four championships and two gold medals she was not asked to appear on ESPN until she earned a position on an NFL team. “This isn’t about me,” she says. “This is about every woman and girl who absolutely loves the game of football and they haven’t had a place before.”