A few days ago, news broke that the NFL would have it’s first female coach. The Arizona Cardinals announced that Jen Welter will work with the team’s inside linebackers throughout training camp and the preseason. It’s believed she is the first female to hold a coaching position of any kind in the NFL.
A step forward perhaps in a league where domestic abuse scandals have been covered up or not reacted to as desired, which has led some to believe that the league’s consideration of the female demographic is not as genuine as it should be. However to others, this news may not come as a surprise considering last year Bloomberg reported that women were the fastest growing and most critical demographic with regards to the success of the NFL (http://goo.gl/bdAkJe).
Now that the NFL and also the NBA have female coaches on team staffs, will other major league sports follow suit? Let’s look at hockey. There is a lack of female coaches in hockey, but it is not at the highest level, it is at the lowest level and until that changes it is unlikely there will be a female coach behind the bench or in the pressbox for a NHL team. Some have suggested that the first step to creating a pathway to female coaches in the NHL is to create a sustainable NWHL.
A couple of months ago, Denise Bailey (Sports Administration Master’s student) recognized the grassroots development of the NWHL and the need to address the dire situation professional female hockey was in.
A new women’s professional sports competition is brewing and expected to begin in October this year. Dani Rylan age 27 former Hockey Player at Northeastern University has plans in place to step up women’s hockey and move it to the professional level. Rylan is currently founder and commissioner of the four team National Women’s Hockey League (NWHL). The details are still being iron out. Players have not yet been named, but will receive compensation unlike the College League. The pay will range from 10K to 15K per season. The season will consist of 18 regular games and playoffs. Players will receive health benefits, help with visas for international players, and support a players union so the rank-and-file have a say in the league’s operation. The four teams are: The New York Riveters, out of Twin Rinks Ice Center in East Meadow, New York; the Boston Pride at Allied Veterans Rink in Everett, Massachusetts; the Buffalo Beauts at the Harbor Center in downtown Buffalo; and the Connecticut Whale at Chelsea Piers in Stamford, Connecticut.
Rylan spent nearly 1 year soliciting contributions. The league will receive donations and sponsorships for revenue. Pledges for most of the money for the first year has already been received. Travel deals are still being worked out. Once the deal is completed, investors, sponsors, franchise ownership groups and players will be revealed.
While meeting in New York, Rylan stated “These are the best athletes in the world, and we need to treat them like that.” “To make this as professional as possible, we want to supply them with all the necessities they need to compete at that level. It’s a league that focuses on the players, making sure they have the right platform and the right stage to train and prepare themselves for the next Olympics.”
Rylan has gone through great lengths to get to this point. She obviously has supporters who have made significant contributions to get the league started.
Do you think Women’s Professional Hockey will succeed?
Would you support your local team?
What other barriers exist that are blocking the pathway to NHL coaching for women?