With One Hire, The NFL Just Got Its Second-Ever Full-Time Female Coach And Its First-Ever Openly Gay Coach

This is progress.

With one hire, the NFL has gained its second-ever female coach and its first-ever openly gay coach, male or female, in Katie Sowers. Sowers was just hired as the assistant coach for the San Francisco 49ers for the upcoming season, and is making history and also making way for others to do so as well.


Prior to Sowers, we saw Kathryn Smith join the Buffalo Bills staff in 2016, and Jen Welter, who was an assisting coaching intern for the Arizona Cardinals in 2015, showing that the NFL is slowly opening its doors to women. But, in addition to being a win for women, it's a win for LGBT people and a chance for them to find a place in this corner of the sports world.

"No matter what you do in life, one of the most important things is to be true to who you are. 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," the 31-year-old, an open lesbian, 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."

A Kansas native, Sowers has always loved football. She played pro football in the Women's Football Alliance along with her twin sister, Liz, and helped the U.S. win a world title and gold medal in 2013. Last year, in 2016, she was a scouting intern for the Atlanta Falcons where she met Kyle Shanahan, the current 49ers head coach. He brought her to the 49ers as part of the Bill Walsh NFL Diversity Coaching Fellowship before being officially hired.

"Many people ask how I made it to where I am, on such an untraditional route and it's easy to say 'you have to believe in yourself and dreams will come true' but that's only part of it, and in my opinion that's only the second part," Sowers wrote in an Instagram post announcing the big news and thanking "close friend and mentor" Scott Pioli, who was also recently credited by Ryan O'Callaghan, a former football player who recently came out and is one of only 11 openly gay players in the sport's history. "It's important for all to know that dreams are achieved by first finding someone who sees your worth and value, regardless of your gender, and takes the necessary steps to clear a path, even on the path less traveled. Those people are hard to find, but I was blessed to begin my journey in the NFL because of a close friend and mentor in Scott Pioli."

Sowers hopes to eventually become a head coach in the NFL or at the college level, combining her love of leading others with the passion she has for the game. But, for now, Sowers is happy to just be making an impact for LGBT people and especially young women.

"Signing autographs served as one of those moments when I realized the reality of the impact I was having on people. I had multiple families call me over and thank me for the doors I am opening for their daughters," Sowers said. "I even met a few young girls who were so excited to see me and tell me their own story of the sports they play. It was a special moment that I will remember for a long time."

Cover image via Eric Broder Van Dyke / Shutterstock.com

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