I recently shared a post on January 21st that recognized the San Francisco 49ers Katie Sowers as the First Female Assistant Coach in the NFL. It's currently getting numerous comments about the fact that Katie Sowers should or should not have been labeled as the First Female Coach and instead recognized as Assistant Coach. I don't like labels, PERIOD!
It reminds me of my first coaching position as a varsity basketball coach at Nellis Air Force Base, Las Vegas, Nevada. During pre-season practice, I was interrupted one day by a young Airmen who wanted a career in journalism and was interested in becoming the team journalist. I didn't pay him any attention because at first contact, I didn't think he was serious.
I had seen this young man about the base in his military uniform and sometimes off duty in civilian clothes. My first impression was that he was handsome, physically fit, confident and very stylish. I told my assistant coach, keep an eye on him. He'll be back when he figures out the right angle to make his sales pitch.
Throughout the pre-season, I'd see him sitting in the stands or sometimes walking around the edges of court...like he was measuring me/sizing me up waiting for the right moment to
approach me to say what ever was on his mind.
Every practice session, he'd be at the gym. I couldn't tell if he wanted to try out or what he wanted. He was well over six feet tall. So I wondered if he just might want to play on the team. That is until, one practice session, he approached me and wanted to know if we had a team journalist and if not, he'd like to be considered for the position. The local paper on base covered us in the sports section but we never say them until game time. They'd never came into practice to interact with me, the team or m staff. Their coverage wasn't really what I liked...not hard hitting enough to capture peoples attention. This would be something that' has never been done before. And, I had no problem with his request. We needed someone on the inside to tell our story.
So, why not HIM...?
After practice, we sat and discussed the position in more detail. It was at this point that he said something to me that shocked him more that it startled me. He glanced around the gym and to me he whispered, "You know that I'm gay, right?" After taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly, he went on to say. "That's not gonna be a problem with you, right." I looked at him for a long moment without responding. As I said earlier in this article, I had seen him out and about. I keep my opinion to my self. But, this was back in the day before, (Clinton's - Don't Ask, Don't Tell Policy in the Military). If was important that you didn't draw attention to yourself. The military wasn't ready to address this issue.
I have to admit that this young man, if you'd seen him, he had such confidence and didn't appear to care who knew what his sexual preference was. I surly didn't give a damn. I finally gathered myself and told him that I wanted someone that could do following:
a. Do the job, PERIOD. Get it done!
b. Someone that wasn't afraid to tell the truth and not worry about having my permission or acceptance to be who they are. My only issue would be that he show up and let the rest take care of itself.
c. I wasn't into labels, gender bias or anything of the sort. If he couldn't do the damn job then I'd find someone else. If I suspected that he was looking for a reason to fail, not succeed because of public pressure based on his lifestyle, he'd be out.
d. I wanted him to be fair and consistent when covering our team and to speak the truth about what's going on.
During this time, I never once went to the team to get their approval or discuss his life style.
At the end of the day, I wanted him, again, to just get the job done and let me deal with all the outside bullshit. I reminded him that myself and the coaching staff never refer to our team as black or white players. But instead, we were a team made up of 15 basketball players concerned with playing to win. This young man went on to be the best team journalist that we'd seen. His articles on the team were straight to the point, no bias and accepted by the team and base without any concern about who HE was.
What's so stunning about the news article on Katie Sowers is that the news media felt it necessary to tell the world that she is openly gay.
Who gives a damn?
Can Katie Sowers coach the 49ers players, gain their trust and respect...get them to play at their maximum level? We never see this when men coach women sports. As far as Katie Sowers being qualified to coach in the NFL, we'll I'll close with this...all anyone wants in life is to have a chance and opportunity to prove their worth. We never know what someone is capable of unless we give them the opportunity to have that chance to prove they have what it takes.