Katie Sowers has loved and played football her whole life. Now she’s spent four seasons in the NFL, including two as an offensive assistant with the San Francisco 49ers.
The 33 year old made history earlier this year as the first openly gay and first female coach in Super Bowl history. Her story was featured in a Microsoft Super Bowl ad.
“Getting into this field, it was never my goal to be a star,” Sowers said. “It was never my goal to have my name in the headlines. That was just kind of everything that came with me following my passion.”
She has a platform and takes the responsibility seriously.
“Just seeing the letters that I received from young girls that say they now are inspired to go out there and be a coach, or they know that they can do anything,” she said, “those are the things that keep me going and keep me focused on what it is that’s truly important.”
Always a leader
Sowers was a quarterback and defensive back in the Women’s Football Alliance for eight years. She led the U.S. national team to a gold medal at the 2013 Women’s World Championships.
Before her current role with the 49ers, she worked with the Atlanta Falcons as a coach and then a scouting intern.
“Teaching, coaching was always kind of my path,” said Sowers, whose father was a collegiate basketball coach and a special ed teacher, and whose mother was a director of nursing. “It was always what I knew I wanted to do. It was always between three things: it was coaching, teaching, or counseling. And I kind of found all three in one, which is what I’m doing now.
“I love leading people. I love teaching people. And so coaching has never been a question.”
Sowers is committed to inclusivity and says it’s critical to support athletes of different genders and colors. “Inequality affects all of us,” she said.
She’s looking forward to the day when boys wear jerseys celebrating female athletes. But as a society, we need to tackle gender stereotypes that dictate certain things are meant for boys and others are meant for girls.
For example, Sowers’ twin sister saw some boys playing football at the park and mentioned it to her daughter, who replied that boys don’t play football. That’s because she’d grown up seeing her Aunt Katie play women’s tackle football.
“I think in order to change, we have to start truly at the ground level and just teach girls and boys that there really are no limitations,” Sowers said.
Sowers wants people to respect female athletes for how they play the game and their love for the game, just as male athletes are respected. Increased exposure could be a big benefit, too. She says the USA women’s national team is a good example.
“You take a team and you allow a country to get to know them, and regardless of their gender, they are loved and adored, and they create fans all over the world,” she said.
Sowers advises anyone, especially girls, wanting to go into the sports industry to take initiative and be open to opportunities.
“Truly find where you’re valuable, where you can’t be replaced,” she said.
Be the best
Sowers wants to be the best version of herself every day.
“It’s good to set goals, obviously I want to be a head coach,” Sowers said. “But when we focus on that, we forget what it is that’s important today.”
She wants to inspire kids, too.
“My message would be, especially to young girls, don’t strive to be the first; strive to be the best you can be,” she said. “And if you’re the first, then amazing, but just make sure if you are the first, you’re not the last.”