Welter, Hammon, National Soccer Team Highlight Fantastic Summer For U.S. Women
It’s been a terrific summer for women in sports in the U.S. It began in June with the national soccer team capturing the World Cup in dominating fashion. Then last month Becky Hammon became the first female to guide an NBA team to a summer league championship.
Capping it off, Jen Welter made history by being named the first assistant coach in the NFL. She will be a training camp and preseason intern responsible for working with the linebackers of the Arizona Cardinals. It may not seem like much status-wise but it’s significant, says Liz Boardman, senior client partner of the executive search firm Korn Ferry. “Every coach puts in a trial period. They are giving her a legitimate shot and she’s earned it. She’s been chipping away at it for a long time,” Boardman explained.
Welter, 37, played professionally for 14 years and also served as an assistant with the Texas Revolution indoor team.
Boardman, who knows first-hand about being a woman in a predominantly man’s world, thinks pro sports moves slower than society when it comes to change. “It is privately held so it’s up to the owners,” she said.
In addition, unlike basketball and soccer, football isn’t a sport most people associate with women playing. “Basketball is intensely less physical and women have been playing it a lot longer,” Boardman said. Hammon, 38, led the San Antonio Spurs to the Las Vegas Summer League championship after serving as the first female full-time assistant coach in NBA history during the regular season.
While good public relations isn’t the reason for Hammon and Welter’s hirings, Boardman thinks they help “shine a light on the better stories” going on in sports, which is especially important for the NFL, considering the year it had regarding the domestic abuse of women.
Boardman isn’t ready to say when the first female head coach will assume the reins of a professional team. “I’m a young 36 so maybe in my grandchild’s generation. It takes decades,” she said.