Katie Sowers has been a trailblazer in plain sight.
Sowers became the NFL’s third ever full-time female coach, and the only active one, after the San Francisco 49ers offered her the full-time offensive assistant coach position last summer.
Things are going quite well to say the least.
The San Francisco 49ers continued their magical season, dominating the Green Bay Packers in the N.F.C. championship game, 37-20, to earn a trip to Super Bowl LIV (Super Bowl 54). This is their first Super Bowl since 2013.
You may have heard of the Super Bowl. A sporting event where in America, more people tune in than attend worship services, vote in elections, or even celebrate traditional holidays. The Super Bowl is, year on year, the most-watched event on American television.
Katie Sowers has proved to be an important cog in the 49ers winning machine and a key component of the teams recent ascent to the top of the rankings. Sowers isn’t too bothered about the doubters and is fully focused on helping the team.
“I’m not just here to be the token female. I’m here to help us win” she says.
Sowers grew up in Kansas and was infatuated with sport, particularly American Football. After finishing college, she joined a women’s American Football team, the West Michigan Mayhem, who played in the Women’s Football Alliance (WFA) league.
Sowers thrived as a quarterback in the WFA and played for the 2013 U.S. Women’s National Team in the IFAF Women’s World Championship. In the title game, she made five interceptions, returning three for touchdowns and earning MVP honours in the process.
It was here where she grew ambitions to become a coach in the NFL. This dream was amplified when she saw Becky Hammond become only the second ever female to be hired in the NBA, to the then most successful team, San Antonio Spurs.
“I always knew I wanted to coach, but I didn’t know I could coach in the NFL until I saw Becky Hammon become a coach in the NBA. I had this weird feeling then, knowing it was going to happen.” Sowers told marketwatch.com.
At this time while in Kansas, Sowers volunteered as a girls basketball coach. Incredibly, one of the players was the daughter of Scott Pioli, the former Kansas City Chiefs general manager and soon to be Atlanta Falcons assistant general manager. Pioli admired Sowers’ coaching skills and soon discovered her involvement in football. He was impressed with how Sowers coached and learned about her passion of coaching in the NFL.
In 2016, when Pioli became the assistant general manager of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, he offered Sowers a coaching internship during preseason. Pioli then kept her on as a scout, and she worked closely with him and the coaching staff in 2016.
Sowers had plenty of support in Atlanta, including from the team’s offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan. Shanahan was later hired as the San Francisco 49ers head coach in 2017 and brought Sowers over with him.
Sowers said “Kyle’s not going to hire a woman to make a point,” “I showed in Atlanta that I could add value to the team. Having Kyle recognize that helped my confidence and set me on a path to become a better coach.”
Sowers is into her fourth season in the NFL and second as an offensive assistant with the 49ers. She was offered a full-time gig working with the team’s wide receivers.
Sowers is NFL’s third full-time female coach, taking the baton from Kathryn Smith, a quality control coach with the Buffalo Bills in 2016 and Lee Brandon, a strength and conditioning coach with the New York Jets in 1990.
With the 49ers one game away from Super Bowl victory, and Katie Sowers in the backroom staff, the case for female coaches will only grow stronger if she is soon sporting a Super Bowl ring. Despite whatever happens, we are undoubtedly closer to the moment whereby coaches in the NFL and other sports are no more “female coaches” but instead just “coaches”.