Kayla Mar ’27
On Oct. 3, Scripps Presents hosted football and flag football coach Katie Sowers, who spoke about her trailblazing career in athletics. During the discussion mediated by Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS) athletes Ella Brisset CMC ’25 of women’s tennis and Kaavya Narayan CMC ’25 of 5C club volleyball, Sowers brought a wealth of knowledge and advice for fellow women, particularly those in male-dominated careers.
In 2022, Sowers made NFL history as the first woman and openly gay individual to coach in the Super Bowl. In the NFL, Sowers coached for the Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco 49ers, and Kansas City Chiefs before joining the athletics department faculty of Ottawa University where she currently coaches their back-to-back-to-back national champion women’s flag football team.
To begin, Sowers was asked what sparked her interest in sports. “There was no other option,” she responded. As the daughter of a collegiate basketball coach, sports were always a part of her life and the obvious career choice. She described how from an early age she and her twin sister, clad in football pads, would run around and gleefully hit each other as hard as they could.
Sowers cited Becky Hammon, NBA coaching icon, as her inspiration for getting into the profession. Once she found her influence, Sowers recalled how she boldly proclaimed, “Listen guys, I’m gonna be in the NFL,” to mixed reactions from men. She then recounted the “mixture of fate” that got her into the NFL, and asserted, “You never know who’s watching, you never know who’s in the room … Someone will notice, someone will see your work ethic.”
Sowers was then asked about her impact as the first female and openly gay Super Bowl coach. She expressed how society sees everything as “pink and blue,” and putting somebody in an unexpected position provided a different lens on life.
She articulated how many job opportunities we limit for children, emphasizing how children’s perceptions of the world are directly shaped by their immediate influences. She recalled how her nine-year-old “girliest girl in the world” niece never thought boys could play football since she grew up around women playing the sport. Sowers hopes people can dream a little bigger by seeing her on the big screen — past societal expectations of “pink and blue.”
As Assistant Coach and Defensive Coordinator of Ottawa University’s women’s flag football team, Sowers hopes to teach people that women can be coaches. She stressed a need for more women in coaching and unapologetic feminists to advocate for what women need. After seeing how many of her players express a desire to coach, she indicated excitement for more female head coaches who “may or may not beat [her] in the future.”
As a woman in a male dominated field, she described how she used to focus on her gender because everyone else did. She learned to reflect on how each man in her field has different stories, unique talents, and varying backgrounds – being a woman is just one difference between her and her colleagues. Women tend to draw more attention just because of their gender, but Sowers reiterates, one difference does not make one mistake any worse.
She then described one failure early in her career. While attending a small private college that did not allow openly gay individuals, a volunteer coaching opportunity was shut down due to her identity, citing this decision as “nothing personal.” Sowers thought her career was over. However, one closed door led her to a new opportunity in women’s tackle football, which eventually evolved into coaching in the Super Bowl. She explained that rejection can be an opportunity: “when [a door] doesn’t open, it might not be your door.”
Sowers then was asked what she hoped to see in sports and leadership in the near future with an increasing investment in women’s sports. She simply stated when headlines no longer mention gender, then it is evident the extent women’s sports have progressed. She emphasized the power of media and marketing, and how “uncool camera angles” that women’s sports are often portrayed creates “uncool” images. “If you don’t know about it you don’t care about it,” she stated, underscoring how if women’s sports receive proper storytelling, then people will get invested in their stories.
During the audience Q&A segment, Sowers commented on the transition from coaching in the NFL to collegiate flag football and her social impact in each role. Sowers described how unfortunately, the public was more interested in a woman in a male dominated field rather than her coaching flag football. Her public position as a former NFL coach provides her a platform to advocate for addressing gender discrimination in sports.
“Three time national champs should not be a pregame for men at the same college,” she said. “We’re not a pregame, we’re the main event.”
When asked how to bring inclusivity of transgender athletes in all levels of sports, Sowers declared her unwavering acceptance of transgender student athletes and emphasized education’s utmost importance in society. Nobody plans to say they are transgender just to win women’s sports, she explained, and if sports is something that gives these young individuals “just a little more joy, then let them.”
Many people opposed to transgender women in sports do not care about women’s sports, she asserted, they only care that someone different came into the picture. She concluded this question by maintaining, “Stop taking away opportunities for kids,” when sports provide remarkably more to young people than winning and losing.
Katie Sowers represents a tremendous step towards women emerging in male dominated professions and presents an abundance of expectation-breaking advice for young women. She works as an inspiration to young women in sports, fighting gender discrimination with every game played and coached.
Image Source: Sports Illustrated