The 2020 Super Bowl is coming up on Sunday, Feb. 2, but Katie Sowers has already made history. Sowers is an offensive assistant coach for the San Francisco 49ers, and this year, Sowers is the Super Bowl's first openly gay female coach, according to CNN. Sowers had a rough start in her career, and now she's here to make history.
According to CNN, Sowers will join the San Francisco 49ers in Miami on Sunday as part of the team's offensive coaching staff. She has been part of the 49ers' staff for two years, per USA Today, and part of the NFL for four. Sowers started coaching football in 2016, when she took a coaching internship and spent the offseason and training camp with the Atlanta Falcons. In the fall of 2017, Kyle Shanahan, who had recently started as the San Francisco 49ers' head coach, offered Sowers a seasonal assistant coaching job with the 49ers. Sowers is the second woman in NFL history to have a full-time coaching job, per NPR. That same year, Sowers publicly discussed her sexual orientation with Outsports, a sports news website that highlights the stories of LGBTQ athletes and fans.
"There are so many people who identify as LGBT in the NFL, as in any business, that do not feel comfortable being public about their sexual orientation," Sowers told Outsports. "The more we can create an environment that welcomes all types of people, no matter their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, the more we can help ease the pain and burden that many carry every day."
Sowers' trajectory to the NFL was an unorthodox one. She grew up playing football and competed in several other sports as a student at Indiana's Goshen College. But, according to the Associated Press, she was turned down for a volunteer assistant coach position for the Goshen's women's basketball team in 2009 after she came out as gay. (Goshen later apologized to Sowers, and ended the discriminatory policies that prevented her advancement in 2015, per NBC News.)
Sowers went on to play in the Women's Football Alliance for eight years, starting when she was still a student at Goshen, and she also played for the U.S. Women's National Football Team in 2013. Playing in the Football Alliance wasn't a paid job, per CNN; players in this alliance pay to play because they love the game. While she was playing for the Kansas City Titans in Missouri, Sowers worked a local job coaching youth girls basketball, until she joined the Falcons in 2016 through the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship.
For Sowers, making history at the Super Bowl is another step on her journey to become a head coach, and her story's not over yet, she told The New York Post on Jan. 28. “The future is left to be told,” she said. “It’s still unwritten. I’m going to take a job where I know I can continue to impact. That’s here and today and right now in the present moment.”