Dr. Jen Welter is familiar with firsts.
In 2010, she played in the very first Gridiron Women’s World Championship, representing Team USA.
After a venerable career in women’s professional football, in 2014 Welter became the first female running back to play on a men’s professional gridiron team when she signed with Texas Revolution.
In 2015, she became the first woman to coach in a men’s professional football league when she was named as the linebackers and special teams coach for Revolution.
Later that year, she became the first female coach in the NFL when she coached the Arizona Cardinals during their training camp and preseason.
It’s only fitting, then, that this weekend Welter will lead Australia’s first women’s national gridiron team as they play their first game against Canada at the 2017 IFAF Women’s World Championship.
Although there’s nothing grassroots about American football in the United States, Welter has spent her whole life breaking ground.
“This is the game we were told we couldn’t, wouldn’t, and shouldn’t play our whole lives, so by breaking that barrier and stepping on the field, you are winning,” Welter said.
“As the head coach of Team Australia, every single one of my players has already won, because she is part of the foundation that this sport will grow from. She will show the women and girls what is possible for generations to come.”
In that first Women’s World Championship in 2010, Welter won gold with Team USA, but she recognises that for Team Australia, just getting to the championship is an achievement.
“Of course, I want them to win games, but not at the expense of missing the power in the journey,” she said.
“I got to start my football journey in 2002, and it took me eight years to represent my country for the first time, at the first women’s world championship. [Women’s] gridiron has only really been played in Australia for three to four years.”
Welter has enlisted Team USA coaches Anthony Stone and John Konecki to help her, and Australia’s squad, in the 2017 championship.
She wrote what coaching Team Australia means to her in a recent Facebook post:
“To travel the world with the game that changed my life and my global football family, while increasing the opportunities for women… this is truly a blessing.”
The Outback Gridiron Women’s national team will play their first game on Sunday, June 25 at 12.30pm AEST against Team Canada.