On February 2nd, 2020, the San Francisco 49ers’ offensive assistant coach became not only the first female coach in super bowl history but also the first openly gay one as well. Though the 49ers’ would eventually lose to the Kansas City Chiefs 31-20, Katie Sowers’ rise to assistant coach in an otherwise conservative league is an interesting tale to tell.
Katie Sowers has always had football running through her veins; at the early age of eight, Katie had already professed her love for the sport, stating that although she liked sports like soccer and basketball, football was by far her favourite. She even seemed to have given a slight foreshadow to the career path she would later have, stating that, “[her] favourite part of football is tackling [sic]”. Though she loved the sport of football, its place in the world of women’s sports had not yet grown, and so rather than play football in college, she instead went to Goshen College to play basketball. After her college eligibility ended, Katie asked to stay on as a volunteer basketball coach for the women’s team, and this is where she faced the first hurdle of her career. She was called into her coach’s office who said that there had been many parents who had been worried about their daughters being around someone who was gay. Though Katie was crushed, this did not stop her but instead fuelled her even more.
However, before she became an assistant coach, she made one pit stop along the way. In 2013, Katie joined the USA’s women’s football team in the IFAF Women’s World Championship, where she played the role of defensive back/quarterback, eventually helping the team to a gold medal finish. After her time playing professionally in the Women’s Football Alliance where she was a player of the West Michigan Mayhem and the Kansas City Titans, she took on her first professional position on a football team, becoming the Kansas City Titan’s general manager.
Her first position in the NFL came in 2016 when she was hired as a summer intern with the Atlanta Falcons, and then afterwards took on the position of scouting intern with the team. After these two roles with the Atlanta Falcons, Katie was hired to be a part of the 49ers’ training camp as one of the interns hired through the team’s diversity fellowship. At the end of her internship in 2017, Katie was approached by the GM of the 49ers, who said that the team wanted to keep her full-time, and thus Katie Sowers became the first openly gay female coach in the NFL history.
Katie Sowers’ rise to where she is today was at times fraught with difficulty, simply because of who she is, but through tenacity and hard work, she not only proved others wrong but has also helped pave the way for another generation.