Episode 002 – Dr. Jen Welter, NFL’s First Female Coach, Sports Psychologist, Athlete, and Author



Dr. Jen Welter

This week’s Leveling the Playing Field was recorded in person. Bobbi-Sue interviews Dr. Jen Welter, the first female coach in the NFL, former professional football player, sports psychologist, and author.  Jen is one of the best women’s football players in the world. She played professionally for 15 years, won 4 championships, was on Team USA when the team won the first and second gold medals in the sport ever and went to 8 pro bowls. As if that wasn’t enough, Jen went on to make history in the men’s game 3 times.

Dr. Welter’s journey from tennis player to coach in the NFL is inspiring. The women chat about everything from when Dr. Welter was asked not to try out for her high school football team (and why it was for a good reason) to her new book, Play Big. Make sure you subscribe, rate, and review on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, and RadioInfluence. com. Next week, as previously promised, we have Denise White, CEO of EAG Sport Management.

Show Notes:
  • Dr. Welter started off playing tennis and wanted to be Gabriela Sabatini.
  • Impact of a coach’s comments to Jen regarding her future in tennis and how it shaped her life.
  • Jen discusses her transition from tennis to team sports and how it made her a better person. In this discussion, she mentions why she always wore #13 (because she was bad luck for everyone else) and BSDH snort-laughs.
  • The high school football coach who asked Jen not to try out and how he’s had her back ever since.
  • Jen and BSDH discuss the process of figuring out where to go to college and how Jen found her place at Boston College with the women’s rugby team. And then the let down of not making the national under 23 rugby team.
  • When Dr. Welter decided to try out for a women’s pro football team, she had the same anxiety we all do.
  • Jen talks about how football taught her about getting knocked down on and off the field and how to get back up… with attitude.
  • How did Jen use her Sports Psychology classes to her advantage while playing?
  • What was it like playing professional football in the women’s league and who knew that we had a Team USA for women’s football?
  • Jen talks about her decision to coach the first ever Australian women’s team instead of playing for Team USA for the third time.
  • BSDH asks Dr. Welter her thoughts on the women’s league that wears little clothing and someone suggests an alternative men’s league of similar uniform type.
  • Jen has multiple camp programs she runs including “A Day in the Life”, a girls’ flag football camp, and “Camp on the Corner”
  • Funny thing… Jen never wanted to play men’s football. In fact, she said: “I do not want to play football against men. I am not crazy.”
  • And then somehow… she got tricked into being the first female coach in men’s professional football.
  • The story about how Jen became the first female coach in the NFL is amazing and just shows you never know where your life will lead.
  • The guys are always really receptive to Jen and her sports psychology background. She tells a story about Ricky Williams.
  • BSDH asks Jen about her consulting work, mental health awareness, and stigma.
  • We end the conversation talking about Dr. Welter’s book “Play Big: Lessons in Being Limitless from the First Woman to Coach in the NFL,” which is available for pre-order now!

Quotable moments:

  • “When that person is not the person to bring out the best in you and, instead maybe picks on you and puts you down, it can have lasting implications for the rest of your life. And so, it’s a very important role. I cherish it.” – Re: the role of coaches in a player’s life, especially children.
  •  “That fear is one of the most dangerous things that there is in this world because it stops so much.” – Re: fear when trying out for Mass Mutiny
  • “The answer of not asking is always no.”
  • “Football has taught me a different philosophy on getting knocked down. It’s not a question of if, it’s a part of the game!”
  • “So when you get back up, how are you going to do it? And what are you going to do about it? And when you get back up, do it with a lot of attitude.”
  • “I love my brand of crazy.”
  • “I couldn’t out big anybody. I had to out little them. So I had to out maneuver them.” – On using her psychology classes to her benefit on the field
  • “Having a degree in psychology means that you use it every day. It’s in everything that you do. Because it’s people.”
  • “If we want to change the world we have to change it through sport.” [Preach, sister!]
  • “Our motivation for football was never about money. It was about opening doors. They used to call football the final frontier for women in sports.”
  • “So when we were playing we all believed we were sacrificing to push forward not just football but women in general.”
  • “We went and won a gold medal and we all thought we had changed the world. And we came home and nobody even knew we existed.” – Re: Coming back after winning first gold medal ever awarded for women’s football
  • “In a time when we are worried about safety and we’re doing more and more to cover our men and protect our men, why are we undressing our women? Why are putting them at more risk” – Re: The other women’s league
  • “We shouldn’t show women that they can play the same game… sorta. That they can play a game that’s kinda like it.”
  • “Do you want her to see that you can do everything the guys do as long as you’re willing to take your clothes off? Or do you want them to see that you have the right to play the same game by the same rules?”
  • “I was willing to step on that field and take those hits for every single one of the women who I had fought with, fought against, fought for my whole career. I knew that it was an opportunity to break through.”
  • “If that was my destiny to die out on the football field, I would do it.”
  • “I was the lead blocker…. Somebody has to be willing to sacrifice for something bigger.”
  • “I knew it had to be perfect from start to finish because I didn’t want there to be any element to any narrative that could’ve closed the door to all the other women who might want to coach in the future.”
  • “No. I’m not living the dream because this is not a dream I was ever permitted to have. But the beauty of this is now it’s a dream every other little girl can have.”
  • “There was not one moment prior to being in the NFL or having that conversation with Bruce or beyond that, it ever once crossed my mind. Not once.  Not one glimmer of a dream or a hope or a whisper of a possibility that I could ever be a coach in the NFL because there was no one I could look at and say “I want to be her when I grow up.” And to me, that’s what’s really special.”
  • “Somebody might see me and it might spark a dream”

Follow the Leader:

Extra Credit Reading/Watching:

As promised, Bobblehead Jen:

Big, huge thanks to Jen for visiting and being on LTPF. Jen is a very dynamic, energetic, smart, witty, loud, impressive person. Her journey has been tough and continues to be so to this day. However, she never wavers in her confidence and belief in herself. I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next!

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