Sowers Breaks Barriers for Coaches

The San Francisco 49ers made history on Feb. 2 when Katie Sowers became the first female to coach in a Super Bowl. While Sowers debut in the Super Bowl was historic, she isn’t the only female coach making waves across professional sports.

Sowers has been a skill position coach for the 49ers since 2017 when she was hired by Kyle Shannahan. “She’s been tremendous,” 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said of Sowers, “What she does with the receivers, all the skill position guys, how she interacts with them. It’s special.”

She was also featured reading a page out of her childhood journal in a commercial during the NFC Championship game: “I hope someday I will be a good football player. I am good at football.” Sowers read, “I hope, someday, I will be on a real football team.”

The Washington Redskins also took a step forward and hired its first black full-time female coach, Jennifer King. King was hired as an intern in 2017 for the Carolina Panthers under Ron Rivera, now Washington’s head coach. King will work mainly with Randy Jordan, Washington’s running back coach. King was previously an offensive assistant coach at Ivy League champion Dartmouth.

“Jennifer is a bright young coach and will be a great addition to our staff,” Rivera said. “Her familiarity with my expectations as a coach and my first-hand knowledge of her work ethic and preparation were big factors in bringing her to the Redskins.”

Sarah Sudfeld, a student at King’s College, said that Sowers and the 49ers are setting a great example for the rest of professional sports. “I’d say that the hiring of King just means the teams within the NFL are evolving in all the right ways,” Sudfeld said. “It’s wonderful to see a more diverse staff group, and the sport is only going to continue growing in the right direction.”

Becky Hammon, a former professional basketball player, has been on the San Antonio Spurs coaching staff since 2014. Hammon rose quickly in the ranks, becoming the Spurs Summer League head coach and leading them to a Las Vegas Summer League title victory in 2015.

Hammon also garnered the respect of players around the league, such as future Hall of Famer Pau Gasol, who wrote, “I’ve played under two of the sharpest minds in the history of sports, in Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich. And I’m telling you: Becky Hammon can coach. I’m not saying she can coach pretty well. I’m not saying she can coach well enough to get by. I’m not saying she can coach almost at the level of the NBA’s male coaches. I’m saying: Becky Hammon can coach NBA basketball. Period.”

Major League Baseball also recently hired its first female coach in January of 2020, when Alyssa Nakken was hired as an assistant on the San Francisco Giants. Gabe Kapler, the Giants new manager, hired Nakken after she spent six years as an intern in baseball operations. She will work alongside Mark Hallberg to promote high performance and a close-knit team atmosphere, according to NBC Sports.

Edward Corron, a student at the University of Arkansas, believes the changes are a good step forward, but the NFL has a long way to go. “I think King and Sowers are a good start,” Corron said. “But management and ownership, especially the NFL, is too uniform and lacks diversity. Once those change, then I believe real change can happen.”

Professional leagues around the United States are changing the way they hire their coaches. They are no longer only looking for former male players, but the best candidates for the job. Sowers is just one of the names on the long list of coaches breaking down barriers and shattering expectations within professional sports.