IX at 50: Hesston-native Katie Sowers sets NFL firsts while growing football for women
June 23, 1972, President Nixon signed Title IX into law, prohibiting sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funding. Every Thursday at 10:00 p.m. leading up to the 50th anniversary of the law’s passing, 13 Sports will honor the women who changed the game in the last half century — the Trailblazers of Women’s Sports in Kansas.
“IX at 50: The Trailblazers of Women’s Sports in Kansas”
HESSTON, Kan. (WIBW) - In a sport historically dominated by men, Hesston-native Katie Sowers has made a career of firsts.
“When I first started in Atlanta, I remember at one point I was walking around the Combine and doing the interview process, and I remember looking around and not seeing any women,” she recalled. “Then as I continued forward and got to year four, year five, there were women everywhere. And yeah, we have a long way to go, but I think it’s only going to continue to improve.”
Serving as an offensive assistant for the San Francisco 49ers, Sowers became the first openly LGBT coach in the NFL.
In 2020, she made history as the first female coach in the Super Bowl while serving on the opposite sideline of the Chiefs.
She recently added another first to her list: Katie and her twin sister Liz coached Ottawa to the first-ever NAIA Women’s Flag Football National Championship this past year.
“Now that colleges have picked it up like the NAIA and NJCAA, I truly believe that high schools are going to continue to advance women’s sports and really see that women have a platform here, and have these experiences in high school and go to college on a scholarship and play flag football,” Sowers said. “They won’t have to feel like they’re inadequate. They don’t have to feel like they’re less than because they didn’t have those experiences.”
The 34-year-old joined the Chiefs this summer as one of just eight female coaches in the NFL.
Her position came under the Bill Walsh Diversity Coaching Fellowship, which is designed to increase the number of full-time NFL minority coaches.
“There are a lot of people that wonder why it exists,” Sowers said. “I think everybody at least knows the surface level. But when you get into this idea of equity, there’s a difference between equity and equality. Equity is making sure that everybody has an even playing field, and some people need more than others. For me personally, my experience, women didn’t have an opportunity to play football in high school or in college unless you’re playing on the boys’ team. So this Bill Walsh program allows you to network, to create this idea of who you want to become and let others know what you have to offer. It really puts everyone on an even playing field and gives people an opportunity that they might not have had.”
As a frequent first, Sowers paves the way for the next — so that she’s not the last.
“When people ask me, ‘Are you gonna be the first ever female head coach in the NFL?” — I don’t think that that’s what you should strive for,” Sowers said. “If you want to be a head coach, strive to be a head coach. But if you’re saying, ‘I want to be the first,’ that’s saying that if someone beats you, that you somehow failed. But you didn’t fail. If another woman beats me at being a head coach, then we’ve made progress. So I don’t strive to be the first. I strive to make a difference.”
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