As the San Francisco 49ers’ offensive assistant coach, the 33-year-old is now the first openly gay and female coach to lead the team to a Super Bowl. She’ll be on the sidelines this Sunday as the 49ers take on the Kansas City Chiefs, which coincidentally is Sowers’ home state team. But before breaking down barriers in the predominantly male, outwardly straight NFL organization, Sowers overcame adversity on and off the field.
Here’s a glimpse into her journey to the nation’s premiere sporting event.
On Her Lifelong Love of Football: Born three hours outside Kansas City, Katie and her twin sister Liz Sowers (also a football player) were introduced to sports at an early age. Their father coached basketball at a local college, and the Sowers girls’ earliest memories involve backyard games with neighborhood boys. Her early passion for the game is actually featured in Microsoft’s Super Bowl ad, which shows Sowers reading childhood journal entries.
Her dream came true years later when she joined the Women’s Football Alliance. In 2013, Sowers snagged a spot on the United States women’s national American football team that won a world title and gold medal.
As she described to Outsports, “I was told ‘because of your lifestyle, we ask that you do not come around the team.’ That moment really impacted me because it was the first time I truly felt judged because of my sexual orientation. 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.”
“It’s groundbreaking and all that stuff, but the more normalized it is, the better it is,” she told The Mercury News following a successful first season with the 49ers. “As a female, the more someone can ask me what I do and I say ‘I coach football,’ the less shock on their faces will mean the better direction we’re moving.”