Katie Sowers is no stranger to trailblazing. After becoming the second woman ever to be a full-time coach in the NFL, she made history yet again this week when she came out as a lesbian in an interview with OutSports. The 31-year-old San Francisco 49ers’ assistant coach is now the first openly LGBT coach in the League’s history.
Sowers has been a fan of football since childhood, and always knew she wanted to be a coach, but societal norms discouraged her. “[S]ociety is so conditioned to this idea that football is a ‘man’s game,'” she tells OutSports, “and anything other than that is far from traditional.”
Before turning to coaching, Sowers herself was a player (and MVP!) in the world-champion 2013 U.S. women’s national team. She then transitioned into being a team coordinator for the Women’s Football Alliance, and, after interning with the Atlanta Falcons last year, nabbed the assistant coaching position with the 49ers.
Sowers may not be the first football-affiliated gay person to make headlines—you might remember out player Michael Sam being drafted by the St. Louis Rams in 2014—but she hopes to use her visibility to inspire young people, especially girls, to follow their dreams: “I am a strong believer that the more we can expose children to a variety of different opportunities in life, the better chance they have of finding their true calling,” she says. “I would have loved to see women in this role when I was growing up because I think it would have allowed me to follow my passion even earlier. If you can’t see something happen, sometimes it’s hard to believe it can. We don’t know what we don’t know, and I didn’t know football was even a possibility for women.”
— NINERS1 (@rickyhelton1) August 22, 2017
Between Sowers’ coming out and last week’s launch of NFL Pride, the League’s new LGBT employee affinity group, the state of LGBT inclusivity in American football is looking good—but there’s always room for improvement. “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 says. “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.”