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  • Writer's pictureBailey Campbell

Taking the field by storm.

My family is a football family, and for as long as I can remember I wanted to host the annual Super Bowl Party. I am only recently starting to own decor for other holidays like Halloween, Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc... but football bowls, plates, table runners? Don't worry, they were the first "adult" purchase I made. For those who know me best, it's no secret that I also love a good theme, an opportunity to get creative, or, if I can, convince everyone to dress up. My partner, who also loves a good theme, told me that "the Super Bowl already is themed.. you don't need to theme it." So naturally, we themed it. It has now become an annual tradition in our house to host a “Soup or Bowl” party for our friends to gather during the NFL’s culminating night.

The "Soup or Bowl" is designed to be a safe space, where all are welcome whether they'll be biting their nails all game or are really just there for the appetizers, conversations, and (duh) commercials. Come for whatever reason, bring whomever you want, but whatever you bring to eat better be able to be served in a bowl (ex. soup).

In February 2020 my brain started buzzing with brainstorming maybes for the 2021 Badass Ladies calendar, but I had JUST released the 2020 calendar and hadn't yet started researching potentials for the next year yet. When it became clear that the 49ers were heading to the Super Bowl, I made a mental note about one of their coaches. It wasn't until I was watching Super Bowl LIV that I opened the note section of my phone, created a new folder, and typed "Katie Sowers".

As with many of the badass womxn in this calendar, Katie has a lot “firsts” on her resume. Though she is

the second woman to hold a coaching position in the NFL, she was the first to appear in a Super

Bowl. Phenomenally, and of equal importance, she is also the first openly queer coach in all of male

professional sports. Give that a beat. Not the first lesbian... the first coach of any sexual orientation other than straight in the NFL, MLB, NBA, NHL, or MLS. Men’s professional sports have dominated American culture for over a century, and it took until 2017 (when Katie was promoted to full time staff) for any coach to be publicly out.

Her path to the Super Bowl was, unsurprisingly, not an easy one. A true athlete, she started football at

age eight and, by the time she got to college, was a 3-sport varsity athlete in soccer, basketball, and

track. Hoping to make the jump to coaching after her playing career was over, she offered to volunteer

for the women’s basketball team upon graduation but was turned down because of her sexuality. In the

short term, this meant a return to the field, and she decided to pursue her first passion, football, in the

Women’s Football Alliance. Here she excelled and, eventually, made the U.S. Women’s National Team,

which she would help lead to a championship in 2013! A hip injury forced an early retirement from playing, but allowed Katie to pursue another passion: coaching. In 2016, she earned her first opportunity in a men’s league with the Atlanta Falcons as an intern and, soon after, the San Francisco 49ers as a full-time offensive assistant. Did I mention she’s only 33?!

Coming as no surprise but to those who would wrongly believe it impossible, Katie has gotten rave

reviews from both her players and fellow coaches. She has also proudly owned her identity and openly

advocated for more female coaches throughout the league and all of men’s sports and.. it’s worked!

Since her introduction, four more women have gained coaching positions in the NFL and all leagues

bring in more badass ladies each new season.

There have always been qualified womxn and queer people for these coaching roles, and Katie is just one of the first. It's important to acknowledge all of the efforts it took towards reaching this milestone, but also the work that is yet to be done. When she's not on the field or building relationships with her players, she uses her voice to discuss the importance of representation. I'm so grateful to have learned more about her and her work, and can't wait to see what she'll accomplish in the years to come - it was an honor to paint her portrait!

My favorite quote: "It’s awesome being the first, but what I keep saying is that it’s more important that I’m not the last."


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