There are approximately 100 African American and other student-athletes of color this school year at the University of Minnesota. In an occasional series throughout the 2015-16 school and sports year, the MSR will highlight many of these players
This week: Gopher women’s soccer players Simone Kolander and Rashida Beal
The Big Ten preseason soccer poll in August placed Minnesota as sixth-best. Nearly two months later, the Gophers are tied for second with two games remaining.
“Obviously we’re happy on where we are,” says junior forward Simone Kolander from Lakeville, who the conference coaches named as among this season’s players to watch. “Our coaches believe in us.”
“All the little things, and communicating with each other on the field” continue to be improvement goals for the Gophers, adds Rashida Beal, a junior defender from Germantown, Wisconsin. “That’s what we are working on to get us stronger.”
Kolander and Beal, the team’s only Black players, are key performers: Kolander leads the team in scoring and is a team captain. “She’s more vocal and positive with people, bringing them up emotionally,” says her teammate Beal. “It’s a title, but she is up to the task.”
Adds Kolander, “It was awesome having my teammates and coaches feel that I’d [be selected a captain] this year. I’ve always been a vocal player in talking to my teammates and encouraging team. It’s [now] just giving it a title.
“[But] we have other leaders, including Rashida,” she points out. “They are leaders as well.”
“Obviously we are proud of her,” says Beal’s father Lamont. He and his family pack the car and travel five hours to the U of M’s St. Paul campus to see his collegiate daughter, the oldest of four siblings, in action. “[We go] as much as possible, but not every week,” he points out. “It all depends on where they are, but I try every other week. It’s a haul.
“Her grades are impeccable, and that’s the first thing I’m happy about, and she’s competing at a high level. That’s what you want for your child,” notes Lamont Beal on Rashida, who’s studying psychology.
Both players say school is going well for them. “It is our third go-around [as student-athletes], and we are pretty used to it,” concludes Kolander, a business major.
Bringing light to St. Louis
Former Gopher RB Lawrence Maroney (2003-05), a former Gopher 100 “alum,” is working to improve young lives back in his native St. Louis area. While in town for homecoming last month, Mahoney talked to the MSR.
“I haven’t been back in 10 years. The last time was in December 2005,” recalled Maroney. “The campus has changed dramatically. I felt a little lost.”
Maroney played in the NFL for five seasons (2006-10); then, according to him, “I disappeared for a while.” He started his own foundation but “shut it down and went on a hiatus,” he explained. It’s back up and running — “We always wanted to give back to the community and to the kids. My foundation was a major part of me.
“It’s no better time than now to bring positive light to the city,” he said. “It’s not just Ferguson but St. Louis in general.”
Tubby Smith honored
Former Gopher coach Tubby Smith next year will receive the John R. Wooden “Legends of Coaching” Award, announced last week in Los Angeles at the Wooden Award tipoff luncheon.
“The award recognizes coaches who exemplify Coach Wooden’s high standards of coaching success and personal integrity,” states a Wooden Award press release.
Smith, who was fired at Minnesota in 2013, is the first Black honoree, whose past winners include Dean Smith (1999), Denny Crum (2002), Tom Izzo (2011) and Tara VanDerveer (2014). He will be recognized during the award weekend April 7-9, 2016.
Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.