Jennifer Welter, PhD, made history as the first woman to coach in the NFL when she joined the Arizona Cardinals at training camp in 2015. The story of how she got there is nearly as remarkable as the accomplishment itself.
As a recent college grad, Welter left her high-paying job and chic city apartment to train full-time for a tryout with the Mass Mutiny woman’s football team. After four seasons she won her first championship ring and earned her first football paycheck: for $12.
After moving to Texas, she helped lead the Dallas Diamonds to four national championships, studying for her PhD in sports psychology as she rode the bus to away games. She escaped an emotionally abusive relationship. At one point, she was living in her car. But on the field as well as off, “Dr. Jen” is known for popping right back up after taking a hit—even if it it’s a tackle from a 300-pound defensive lineman. Because when the Dallas Diamonds folded, Dr. Jen made the cut as a running back for the men’s arena football team, the Texas Revolution.
After a season as coach for The Revolution, Jen saw an opportunity to make NFL history. With characteristic determination and spirit, she went all in… and the 5-foot-2 woman who was once told she was too small for tennis became the first female coach in the NFL. Her story is a primer on overcoming the odds and a testimony to the change that one trailblazer can affect.
With Play Big: Lessons in Being Limitless from the First Woman to Coach in the NFL, Welter mixes examples from her own life in sports with practical advice on making an outsized impact—with humor, passion, commitment, and grit.
Jennifer Welter is a football coach and former player. She conducts football training camps for women and girls, and makes presentations to organizations and conferences including Intel, MGM, S.H.E. Summit, and many others.