“It’s still somewhat unreal to me,” Sowers says. “I’m not doing anything to be ‘the first’ or even ‘the second’ or to be any type of headline—I’m doing it because this is my passion. I have a true passion for teaching everyone else that they can also follow their passion regardless of their gender, regardless of their race, regardless of who they are.”
This season the Tampa Bay Buccaneers added two full-time female coaches to its staff—a league record. The pattern looks promising, but the reality is, the presence of female coaches in football is still shaky. Of the five women to ever coach in the NFL, Sowers—who is also the league’s first and only openly LGBTQ coach—is the only one to have lasted more than a single season.
“In my opinion it’s a societal issue, it’s not just an NFL issue,” Sowers says. “It’s this crazy power dynamic that we have with this society: We think that women are submissive to men. We fear the idea of femininity. We say, ‘Oh, you hit like a girl.’ I think the time is coming when we’re going to see more and more people feeling that they can be authentic and be themselves.”
She’s looking forward to the day when she’s no longer asked how the guys on the team treat her as a woman leading men. Implication: Male pro athletes will not seriously respect a coach who’s a girl. “The truth is, women have been teaching men for years,” she says. “That’s what coaching is—it’s leading people.”
The Future Is…Free of Gender Stereotypes
Sowers may just be one coach in the league—but seeing her on the sidelines is proof for the little girls out there: Football is for girls too. “I actually had to explain to my niece when she was three years old that boys also play football,” Sowers says with a laugh. “She thought that girls only played football because that’s all she saw.”
Finding real equality in sports isn’t just about girls being able to try out for the football team. It’s also about boys being able to go to school wearing Megan Rapinoe jerseys without it being a thing, Sowers says. “It’s about knowing boys can look up to women. Men are not superior—it’s not about striving to be like a man. It’s about striving to be like whoever it is you want to be like regardless of their gender.”
When the next generation of future coaches is looking for a role model, girls—and boys—will want to be just like Coach Sowers.