It’s no secret that the majority of American football is played, coached, and watched by men. Like most other professional sports, it is one of the most male-dominated career fields out there, but that doesn’t mean women aren’t eager to take part. One woman has received considerable recognition for breaking a glass ceiling that many thought would never be cracked: joining the NFL.
39-year-old Jen Welter is an American football player and the first female coach in NFL history. After playing on both the women’s and the men’s teams for years, she was picked up in 2014 by Texas Revolution of the Champions Indoor Football League, making her the first woman running back on a professional team. Welter got a coaching job a year later when she was signed to coach the Arizona Cardinals’ linebackers as an assistant-coaching intern during their 2015 season and training.
Not only is she a sports icon to women athletes and sports fans, but she has also earned a PhD in psychology. Welter graduated from Boston College and has a master’s degree in Sport Psychology. She then went on to get her PhD from Capella University.
As a true pioneer, Welter spoke at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio on Monday, discussing her accomplishments during her career. She also held a Q&A for her book that same day. Welter’s new sports memoir is titled, Play Big: Lessons in Being Limitless from the First Woman to Coach in the NFL. In the memoir, she details the challenges and rewards of being a woman in a male-dominated field.
Justine Siegal, a like-minded woman and a trailblazer in her own right, was excited for Welter’s event. When asked what advice she would give to Welter, she responded, “Advice? Not read the Internet. … I think she’s going to be in a great spot because the leadership wants her. … Just keep moving forward.” After throwing for the Indians in Arizona, Siegal became the first woman to throw batting practice to minor and major leaguers.
Women often have to work twice as hard as men for the same positions, regardless of their job title. Despite being equally qualified and capable, women are subjected to the sexist practice of constantly having to prove themselves and that they can play nice with the boys. In her memoir, Welter writes, “Greatness is not an accident. Greatness is a choice you make over and over. And when you choose personal greatness – big or small – it becomes a part of who you are.” It’s clear that Welter’s greatness is a product of hard work and talent. Her achievements give hope to those struggling to find their place in a world that still believes masculinity is synonymous with success.
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