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    49ers’ Katie Sowers: First Openly LGBT Coach in NFL and Super Bowl History

    San Francisco 49ers Assistant Coach Katie Sowers keeps shattering the proverbial glass ceiling in sports. In 2017, she became the NFL’s first openly LGBT coach and the second woman to serve as a full-time assistant coach. More recently she became the first woman and the first LGBT coach in Super Bowl history, when the 49ers defeated the Green Bay Packers to become the 2019–2020 season NFC champs.

    Katie Sowers Photos Courtesy of Meg Williams, SF 49ers

    A Hard Worker

    “She’s done a real good job here,” 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan told the San Jose Mercury News. “She helps our quality controls with all the stuff they have to do. She’s a hard worker. You don’t even notice her because she just goes to work and does what’s asked and because of that she’s someone we would like to keep around.”

    And so they have, as Sowers is now in her second season as an offensive assistant with the 49ers. She previously spent the 2017 season with the 49ers as a seasonal offensive assistant. She originally joined the team in June of 2017 as part of the 49ers 2017 Bill Walsh Minority Fellowship, when she worked with their wide receivers.

    In 2016, Sowers spent the offseason/training camp in the same capacity with the Atlanta Falcons. With the Falcons, she worked closely with Atlanta assistant head coach/wide receivers coach Raheem Morris in organizing, conducting, and concluding practice drills. Following her time on the field as a coach, she spent nine months as a scouting intern with the Falcons.

    Passion for Football

    Sowers joined Atlanta after spending five years (2012–2016) as the athletic director of the City of Kansas City. A former member of the 2013 United States Women’s National Football Team and a player herself in the WFA (Women’s Football Alliance) for eight years, Sowers earned her master’s degree in kinesiology with an emphasis in pedagogy from the University of Central Missouri in 2012. Prior to that, she attended Goshen College, a small Christian college in Indiana. While at Goshen she played basketball and soccer, and ran track.

    A lot has changed in even less than a decade. Sowers told Outsports that, early in her career, she lost an opportunity to be a volunteer coach.

    “That moment really impacted me because it was the first time I truly felt judged because of my sexual orientation,” she said. “I was so passionate about coaching, and to feel like my opportunities were limited because of who I loved was hard to deal with. However, without that experience, I would not be where I am today.”

    Double Dose of Talent

    As San Francisco Bay Times columnist Kate Kendell writes in this issue, Sowers has a twin sister, Liz. She plays football too, such that the sisters both received football helmets and shoulder pads as Christmas gifts when they were about 10 years old. Then they relished games of tackle football on Sunday afternoons in their home town of Hesston, Kansas. Their fearless technique with the all-boys players, as they told The Kansas City Star, was to seize “their shirts, spin them around and throw them down.”

    They credit their parents for much of their love for sports. Their father was a longtime women’s basketball coach at Bethel College. Their sports fan mother was also a community leader, given that she served for nearly four decades as the director of the Hesston College Nursing program.

    Katie says of her parents, “They were never trying to force us into a status quo; it was (about) what made us happy. They are the definition of unconditional love.”

    Role Model for Generations of Women

    Sowers is paying back that unconditional love and support by being mindful of her status as a role model, particularly for women desiring a career in sports. Just ahead of Women’s March 2020, she tweeted some powerful words for parents. They ring true, however, for all who desire to break barriers to advancement.

    “If your daughter has a dream of being a football coach in the NFL … or a ballerina … or a professional soccer player … or a teacher … or a nurse … or a doctor … or an astronaut … or even PRESIDENT, just let her know this. She. Can. Do. It. And she will change the world.”

    Published on January 30, 2020


    Katie Sowers Is an Inspiration

    By Kate Kendell, Esq.

    When I first heard the news that the San Francisco 49ers had hired the first woman and lesbian to coach in the NFL, I was elated. But shortly thereafter, I had the chance to meet that coach, Katie Sowers, and I was inspired.

    Katie is everything you would want her to be: smart, approachable, humble, open-hearted. We’ve had the chance to hang a few times—I’ve even had the joy of meeting her twin sister—and every encounter leaves me feeling awe-struck and honored to know her.

    She is now on the biggest stage in sports and she appears unflappable and as joy-filled as ever. Yes, she’s shattered what was a seemingly shatter-proof ceiling and charted the path for a female NFL official and for the first-ever female coach who was recently hired by the San Francisco 49ers. She is also doing a great star-turn in the ubiquitous commercial for the Microsoft Surface.

    But I know one thing for sure, all she cares about is February 2. I, like so many, will be cheering for the Niners, but my cheering will carry an additional intensity on behalf of a woman who is modeling how even the wildest dreams of a young girl can come true.

    Good luck Niners and you go, Katie.

    Kate Kendell is the former Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights and now works with Take Back the Court and the Southern Poverty Law Center.