New Gopher soccer coach faces a ‘new normal’ first season in MN

MSR News Online/MSR News Online Coach Maya Hayes

The Big Ten’s 2020 fall sports season will consist of conference games only for football, men’s and women’s cross country, women’s soccer and volleyball.

“It will be an interesting season,” said first-year Minnesota Assistant Soccer Coach Maya Hayes in an MSR phone interview last week. 

Hayes, the Gophers’ first female assistant coach of color, joined the program July 1 after two seasons as an Auburn graduate assistant coach while she was completing her master’s work on adult education.  

Before her coaching career took off, Hayes was a four-year starter and three-time All-American soccer player at Penn State (2010-13), where she set a 2011 single-season record for points (70) and goals (31). Both feats led the nation as well. 

She said she chose Penn State because the soccer program was led by women: “I wanted to be coached by a female,” Hayes recalled. “Up until that point, I hadn’t had the luxury of that. The schools I was looking at had female head coaches, and that was important to me.”

The young woman also played in two FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup tourneys (2010, 2012), and was the sixth overall pick in the 2014 NWSL draft by Sky Blue FC, where she played from 2014-18.

“I can say I played soccer for a living and got paid to do so,” Hayes said proudly. She said she always saw coaching in her life, which is why she pursued kinesiology for her bachelor degree. Her college coaches also were big influences in this regard.

“It was more so the relationships they intentionally built with their players and making sure their players felt valued,” she recalled. “It was to them how you were as a person and helping you grow and develop into that person.”

“I always thought that would be my path,” she said of coaching.

Gopher Coach Stephanie Golan also was an influencer, albeit from a distance, Hayes noted. She was impressed with Minnesota’s “team culture, blue-collar mentality” that the players displayed on the field. Therefore, when the opportunity came to join Golan’s staff, Hayes said it was too good to pass up.

“Getting to know her and the rest of the staff, there is a connection that was immediately made,” Hayes said. “Her (Golan’s] core belief is my core belief.”

Nonetheless, soccer, a sport Hayes has played since age eight, still needs diversity. “The sport in general doesn’t have a lot of athletes of color,” she said. “That is the same thing [in coaching]. It is something I obviously have gotten used to at this point.”

Hayes is looking forward to her first season in Minnesota despite the uncertainty of the times. “I don’t think any entity is putting the athletes in any harm’s way,” she said. “Hopefully we will see a controlled environment as much as possible.”

Atlanta Dream owner draws fire

U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler (R-Ga.) is the Donald Sterling of the WNBA. Sterling was booted out of the NBA several years ago for his racist views and forced to sell the LA Clippers.  Some are advocating the same for Loeffler, an Atlanta Dream co-owner and a staunch supporter of the current president.

Last week Loeffler said she opposed the WNBA’s social justice initiatives in support for the Black Lives Matter movement. The W is 75 percent Black. 

The Dream players came out against Loeffler in a joint statement saying, “Our team is united in the Movement for Black Lives.” The Atlanta players didn’t demand Loeffler sell, as others have done, but she wrote in an editorial, “I’m not going to give up on the team because of my personal or political views.”

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