Super Bowl LIV will be a historic moment in more ways than one.
When the San Francisco 49ers defeated the Green Bay Packers 37-20 on Sunday night — securing their spot in the upcoming Super Bowl against the Kansas City Chiefs — their assistant coach Katie Sowers also became the first female and first openly-LGBTQ coach to head to the big game.
After the California team’s win on Sunday, Sowers shared her excitement on social media, posting a video from the post-game field celebrations.
“Takin our talents to south beach,” she captioned the video, confetti flying over the team as they raised their NFC Championship Game trophy. The 54th Annual Super Bowl is being held in Miami on Feb. 2.
Sowers, 33, is just the second woman to hold a full-time coaching position in the NFL, but she told PEOPLE in November that she doesn’t let that define her career.
“When you ask any of the coaches who work with me, often they’ll get asked about working with a female,” Sowers said at the time. “To them, it’s not even something that they think about — and it’s not something that I truly think about. They see me for who I am as a coach, and not a female coach.”
Her passion for football began at a young age while growing up in Hesston, Kansas, where she would often play the sport with her twin sister, Liz, in their grandmother’s backyard.
“It’s always just been kind of a natural love,” Sowers said. “Every time I got a chance to write any journal entry in school, it was always about football. I was constantly talking about it.”
Sowers went on to attend Goshen College in Indiana, which is religiously affiliated with the Mennonite Church. Although she is now the first openly gay coach in the NFL, as an undergrad, she faced discrimination for her sexuality.
“I was turned down for a volunteer, unpaid coaching position at my former college because of my lifestyle,” she explained. “I remember holding back tears and calling my mom right away.”
Because of the college’s religious affiliation, “there was nothing that I could do about it,” Sowers added. “That was, in a way, their right to turn me down, to keep me away from the team.”
However, she didn’t let that experience set back her goals.
“Instead of it being an obstacle, it was actually a building block for my future and my next step because I had to look elsewhere,” she explained.
Sowers started out her NFL career as a training camp assistant with the Atlanta Falcons in 2016 before joining the 49ers as an intern in 2017. She was promoted to her current role in 2019.
The most important part of her journey, she said, has been sparking change and seeing her impact on others with similar dreams.
“When I’m on the field and look around, it all kind of sinks in on how far I’ve come and where I am,” she told PEOPLE. “I see young girls out there almost every game, and someone’s mom or dad is yelling to me, saying, ‘my daughter wants to play football,’ or, ‘my daughter is going to be a coach.’ And those are the moments where it’s worth it.”
The 49ers and the Chiefs will face-off at the Super Bowl LIV on Sunday, Feb. 2, in Miami at the Hard Rock Stadium. The game will begin at 6:30 p.m. ET, airing on FOX.