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Kim Wyant Wants to See More Women Coaching Men’s Soccer

As the first and only woman to coach a NCAA men’s soccer team, the former USWNT goalkeeper wants more athletic directors to hire women.

Kim Wyant’s life in soccer has spanned multiple decades. Her accomplishments span from a spot on the first United States women’s national soccer team in 1985, to becoming the first and only woman head coach of a college men’s soccer team, leading NYU to an NCAA tournament appearance this past season.

Under her guidance the last six seasons, Wyant has led the Violets to three Eastern College Athletic Conference championships and two NCAA tournament appearances. Their most recent appearance this past fall saw them win their opening-round match in overtime against Saint Joseph’s College of Maine.

But her success with NYU begs the question: Why aren’t there more women serving as head coaches of men’s college teams? It isn’t uncommon to see men coach women’s teams, but Wyant is the lone head coach of a men’s team at the collegiate level.

“There’s no reason that women can’t work with boys at any level for any sport,” Wyant says. “Most of the teachers in this country are women, so boys learn from women teachers all the time. I see myself as a teacher and as an educator. I hope that leaders in clubs and universities are more open-minded to allowing women a chance at coaching positions for boys’ and men’s teams.”

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Wyant’s current role did not come by chance; she has worked and played at all levels of the sport since high school. Wyant didn’t begin playing soccer until she was an upperclassman in high school. By the time her high school added a soccer team, she had already established herself as a star athlete in volleyball, basketball and softball. Then the head coach of the new soccer team approached Wyant after one of her basketball games and convinced her to try out.

“I was a little bit familiar with the sport but not totally,” Wyant says. “I remember walking out to the pitch on the first day of practice and I was not very keen on running up and down the very large field I was looking at. So, I asked the coach if it was O.K. if I played goalkeeper.”

You would think that having someone who never played soccer before handle the most important position on the field would be a disaster. But Wyant had already excelled at other sports, and her athleticism was on full display as she proved to be a natural in net. She caught the attention of one of her teammates, who suggested that Wyant join her club team.

“She played on the best club team in the Miami area, basically the best team in the whole state,” Wyant says. “She told her club coach about me, and he recruited me to come play for him. Stepping up to the club team helped me get the exposure I needed to go play in college.”

Wyant went on to have an excellent four-year career at UCF. It was there that she was coached by Jim Rudy, who had a reputation for molding excellent goalkeepers. With his help, Wyant became one of the best goalies in the country and helped lead her team to the first NCAA women’s national championship game as a freshman.

Although the Knights lost that game to UNC, Wyant still took home tournament MVP honors and was named the team’s Rookie of the Year. As a senior, Wyant was named First-Team All-American and team MVP. Wyant’s collegiate career came to an end in 1985, but her playing career was far from finished.

“International women’s soccer was really in its infancy,” Wyant says. “There were a lot of good people at U.S. Soccer who were interested in the women’s game and pushing the women’s game. It had gone into a dormant period for a very, very long time basically because of rules that were created by federations that were dominated by males who thought that women couldn’t play soccer. But we were coming into an era in the 1980s where international women’s soccer was reignited. Around that time, somebody made the decision to create the women’s national team.”

A tournament was held in Washington, D.C. in 1984 by the U.S. Soccer Federation, and a national team was formed at the end of it. Wyant was selected, but the team did not compete in any matches.

Another tournament was held the following year at the 1985 Olympic Sports Festival in Baton Rouge. That year’s team was put together with the intent that it would compete against other international squads, and Wyant was one of 17 players selected to the first USWNT out of the nearly 80 players who were at the Olympic Sports Festival.

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“They gathered us on the field with a couple of administrators for U.S. Soccer and the head coach of the team, Mike Ryan,” Wyant says. “They read aloud the names of the players who were selected to the team in front of everyone. It was pretty old-school.”

A few weeks later, the team traveled to Jesolo, Italy, for the first four matches in USWNT history. Wyant was one of the players who competed in the club’s inaugural match.

“My favorite memory of my playing career by far is the very first women’s national team match that happened in Italy,” Wyant says. “We all knew what it meant to be on the national team—you were chosen as one of the best players in the country and were selected to represent your country. But I don’t think it really sank in until we were lining up for the international walkout and they started playing the national anthem.”

Wyant would go on to play a total of 16 games as a member of the USWNT and recorded the first shutout in team history with a victory over Canada in July 1986. Even after her time with the USWNT came to an end, Wyant remained on the pitch—her playing career extending well into the early 2000s.

Long before she became a head coach at NYU, Wyant came to the New York area to join the then Long Island Lady Riders of the newly formed United Soccer Leagues W-League for the 1995 season. Wyant was her usual outstanding self during her time with the Lady Riders—she was the netminder for two championship teams in ’95 and ’97, won tournament MVP honors in ’97 and was named Goalkeeper of the Year for four consecutive seasons from ’95 to ’98.

But even while dominating on the pitch, Wyant was already thinking ahead about the next phase of her career. Although players had to put their lives on pause for training and competitions, there was still a lot of downtime. That, combined with the sport’s growing popularity in the U.S., allowed Wyant to take on several coaching gigs while she was still a member of the USWNT.

Wyant eventually served as head coach at Florida Atlantic University women’s soccer team from 1994 to ’97 while she was still playing in the USL W-League. She soon brought her coaching career to New York, working with Dowling College, Stony Brook University and taking over as the general manager for the Lady Riders. After stepping down from the position in 2007, Wyant took a hiatus from the sport before becoming the head coach of the New York Athletic Club women’s soccer team, a position she still holds today along with her work at NYU.

Wyant first came to NYU in 2011 as an assistant coach on the women’s soccer team but was named the head coach of the men’s team during the ’15 season, becoming the first woman in the NCAA to take on the role.

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“What players want is no different, whether they are men or women,” Wyant says. “They want to know that you’re invested in the team, what the direction is and what the goal is. They want to know what their role is and how they can get better. That goes for men and women, so I don’t think there is any difference at all.”

Although Wyant says she is happy with where she’s at now in her career, she sometimes wonders what her next step could be in the NCAA.

“I have spoken to a colleague who has told me he isn’t sure if there is an athletic director out there who has the guts to hire a woman to coach their men’s team. It’s a shame, but it is probably true,” she says. “It’s like they feel they are taking a big risk by doing that. But is hiring someone like Jill Ellis really a risk? She is one of the best coaches in the world and is more than qualified to be considered for a lot of these jobs. It is probably going to take an athletic director who doesn’t see it as a risk, but there are a lot out there that do.”

Perhaps in the future, fewer athletic directors will see it as a risk, and more women will be coaching on the sidelines during men’s games. If that happens, we can point to Wyant as an example that it was never a risk at all. Wyant is a soccer lifer who has seen it all, continuing to succeed in the sport and helping to shape its future for the better. And it all started when Wyant didn’t want to run up and down a large field.

Michael Rosen is a contributor for GoodSport, a media company dedicated to raising the visibility of women and girls in sports.

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