Katie Sowers always wanted to be a coach, “but I never saw an opportunity in football because I’d never seen a female coach. All it takes is one and then it opens the door for so many”.
For the millions of women likely to watch the Super Bowl on Sunday night (10.30am Monday, AEDT), Sowers is that “one”. America’s most important night on the sporting calendar will finally feature a female coach as Sowers takes to the field as the San Francisco 49ers’ offensive assistant, and the only openly gay coach in the league.
“I tell her she belongs there – because she does,” John Konecki, Sowers’ coach when she played in the US American football team that won the 2013 World Championship, said. “She was a sponge as a player, would sit in the film room and take copious notes. She had this knack to interpret complex ideas and pass on that information to others. It’s a no-brainer that she’s in the position she’s in.”
Sowers’ participation is a big statement for an event in which 46 per cent of television audiences were women last year and, in some senses, the NFL could be regarded as head and shoulders above others in female representation, with eight of the 32 teams having women holding primary ownership stakes. Not only that, but in 2016 the NFL extended the ‘Rooney Rule’ to women for all executive positions, meaning at least one female candidate had to be interviewed for every vacancy of that kind in the league. That increased opportunities at an administrative level.