Katie Sowers: Former San Francisco 49ers coach wants to be ‘change-maker’ for women in the NFL | NFL News



Former San Francisco 49ers coach Katie Sowers talks about her Super Bowl experience, what it was like being a woman working in the NFL and her coaching ambitions. Watch the full interview on Her Huddle at 9pm, Thursday, Sky Sports NFL

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Former San Francisco 49ers coach Katie Sowers talks about her Super Bowl experience, what it was like being a woman working in the NFL and her coaching ambitions. Watch the full interview on Her Huddle at 9pm, Thursday, Sky Sports NFL

Former San Francisco 49ers coach Katie Sowers talks about her Super Bowl experience, what it was like being a woman working in the NFL and her coaching ambitions. Watch the full interview on Her Huddle at 9pm, Thursday, Sky Sports NFL

Katie Sowers is a history-maker, having become the first female and first openly gay coach to coach in the Super Bowl when part of the San Francisco 49ers staff in the 2019 season.

Sadly the game didn’t end the way Sowers and San Francisco hoped, with the 49ers falling to a 31-20 defeat, but Sowers’ impact on the NFL has been long-lasting.

A year later, Lori Locust and Maral Javadifar of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers became the first female NFL coaches to clinch a Super Bowl win, a match in which Sarah Thomas was the first woman to officiate a Super Bowl.

‘A woman in the Super Bowl one day won’t be a headline’

Speaking on Her Huddle (9pm, Sky Sports NFL), Sowers reflected on her Super Bowl experience, what it was like working under “offensive genius” Kyle Shanahan and her ambition to become a ‘change-maker’ in the game.

Her Huddle

September 29, 2022, 9:00pm

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“It was one of those moments where I remember looking around during the national anthem and thinking about when I was younger, dreaming of being on a real football team,” Sowers recalled. “And here I was, at a Super Bowl.

“Low and behold, I’d then become the first woman to lose a Super Bowl. But, even with that out of the way, it was this idea of, one day it won’t be a headline one day, it won’t be weird to see a woman in the Super Bowl.

“That’s when I think we really know that we’ve been successful, when that headline is no longer a big deal, because it’s just the norm.”

Sowers was part of the San Francisco 49ers coaching set up from 2017 through to 2020

Sowers was part of the San Francisco 49ers coaching set up from 2017 through to 2020

She added: “I was glad that my niece was able to watch me because, even though she really claims to hate football, now someone like her can dream of playing or coaching or doing whatever it is that they love, regardless of their gender or their race, sexual orientation, anything like that.”

And the landscape in the NFL is changing, even if slowly. Last season, there were six women on coaching staffs in the NFL, compared to that figure being zero less than a decade ago before Jen Welter became the first with the Arizona Cardinals in 2015.

  • Lori Locust – assistant defensive line coach, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • Maral Javadifar – assistant strength and conditioning coach, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  • Jennifer King – assistant running backs coach, Washington Commanders
  • Sophia Lewin – offensive assistant coach, Buffalo Bills
  • Emily Zaler – player performance assistant, Denver Broncos
  • Callie Brownson – chief of staff, Cleveland Browns

Sowers made her own start in the league in 2016 as a coaching intern with the Atlanta Falcons, and remembers the outlook being very different at the time.

“I always reflect back to when I was starting and I being at events like the combine, and I would look around at all these other teams that were represented, and never did I see a woman in that building.

“And then the next year that I attended, I maybe saw one or two women in there. And then, the following year, it doubled. And then the last year that I attended, there were women all over the place.

“I loved seeing the growth over that span of years. We have a lot more to do, but we’ve come a long way.”

“I’ll still never forget that for my 30th birthday I was I was in Atlanta, and Julio Jones surprised me with a birthday cake. I was just this little coaching intern, not a big deal, and he went out of his way to surprise me. To show that sign of respect for an intern who happened to be a woman was pretty incredible.”

Katie Sowers on Julio Jones

Shanahan ‘one of the best offensive minds in the NFL’

In 2017, Sowers moved to the 49ers as part of the Bill Walsh diversity coaching fellowship and would stay with the team through the 2020 season, where she worked under head coach Shanahan, who was also part of Atlanta’s coaching set-up with Sowers in 2016.

Sowers describes San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan a 'one of the best offensive minds in the game'

Sowers describes San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan a ‘one of the best offensive minds in the game’

As well as their run to the Super Bowl in 2019, Shanahan led the Niners as far as the NFC Championship game last season, though Sowers had since departed the team.

“I feel blessed to have learned from, in my opinion, one of the best offensive minds in the game [Kyle Shanahan],” Sowers said.

“Within my first four years in the NFL, I was in the Super Bowl twice, once as an intern in Atlanta, with Kyle an offensive coordinator, and then as a full-time assistant with him as head coach.

“To be able to say that my time was spent learning from the best, I feel extremely blessed to have had that opportunity.”

New Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel made a big impression on Katie Sowers while with the 49ers

New Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel made a big impression on Katie Sowers while with the 49ers

Also on the Niners staff at that time were current Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel and New York Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur, who Sowers reserved special praise for.

“The two Mikes, they were a huge pull for me,” she said. “They were kind of a little cheering section when it came to believing in me, who I could be and what I could become.

“Having them and learning from them was critical to my success and making it the number of years that I did.”

Sowers: I want to be a ‘change-maker’ for young women

Sowers left San Francisco to join the Chiefs ahead of the 2021 season before, in October of that year, she was appointed as the director of athletic strategic initiatives at Ottawa University, where she also coaches the women’s flag football team.

On her hopes and ambitions for the future, Sowers still wants to be a head coach but is unsure of whether her path there will see her back in the NFL.

“If you would have asked me a few years ago, I probably would have said yes,” Sowers said. “I do want to be a head coach, but whether it’s the NFL, that’s yet to be determined.

Amy Trask discusses her experience as the NFL's first female chief executive with the Raiders, working for Al Davis and improving diversity in the game

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Amy Trask discusses her experience as the NFL’s first female chief executive with the Raiders, working for Al Davis and improving diversity in the game

Amy Trask discusses her experience as the NFL’s first female chief executive with the Raiders, working for Al Davis and improving diversity in the game

“A lot of people don’t know this, but I actually started coaching men by default. It was because I didn’t realise that, one day, there’d be an opportunity that I could coach women in this game of football and actually make a living off of it.

“To know that I could have an impact on, you know, opening a door for young girls who want to play football, and never thought it was even an option for them, that’s what really drives me.”

As for advice for any women following in her footsteps in a male-dominated work environment, Sowers said: “Be the best version of yourself and nothing is impossible.

“It’s a mindset. I think no matter what job, we all have a sense of imposter syndrome. We tend to apply our own doubt, that fear of being the woman that messes up.

“But we all have a different background, we’ve all we all have different stories of what got us to where we are. And the more I realise that me being a woman is just one of my differences, the more confidence I have, the more I can bring my true self to the table.

“I think the hurdle is what society has set up as the problem. And it’s your mindset to get over it.”

She added: “I want to be a change-maker, making the lives of the people that I’m around better. And the more that I can do that, the more that’s where I see my place in history.

“I want to make sure that someone says ‘my life was better because of that person’.”

Her Huddle is a new bi-weekly show to celebrate the stories of women working in and around the NFL – watch the full interview with Katie Sowers at 9pm, Thursday on Sky Sports NFL





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