Gopher soccer team: women leading women

(l-r) Erin Chastain, Allie Wisner, Maya Hayes, Tarah Hobbs
Photo by Dr. Mitchell P. McDonald

The U of M women’s soccer all-female coaching staff is one of four such staffs among Power Five conference schools. The team as of Oct. 16 has the Big Ten’s top-scoring offense in conference play with 18 goals in seven matches.

Minnesota first-year Head Coach Erin Chastain, after 14 seasons at DePaul, began her Gopher tenure 4-0-3, only the fourth Big Ten coach and first school coach to start her first year undefeated in her first seven matches.

Maya Hayes, in her second season as Gopher assistant, is one of three Black female coaches at Minnesota, and assistant Allie Wisner is in her first season from Utah. Tarah Hobbs is a volunteer assistant coach.

“I think we’re females in sport and we coach a women’s team,” said Chastain, “so for me, compiling our staff is about giving women that are super qualified in our profession an opportunity to lead women.”

Chastain (then Erin Hussey) was a four-year starter at Minnesota (1993-96).  She previously coached at Santa Clara and Northwestern as an assistant before taking the DePaul HC job in 2007. “I was given an opportunity when I was very young,” continued Chastain, “and so being able to give that opportunity back was really important to me.”

Hayes played college soccer at Penn State (2010-13), then overseas and the NWSL for four seasons. She began coaching as a grad assistant at Auburn in 2018 and was hired at Minnesota in 2020. She is the only holdover from Stefanie Golan’s staff, who is now at Missouri.

“We were fortunate” in having her on staff, said Chastain of Hayes. “Had she not been a holdover and just someone that would have applied for the job, she still would have been someone that would have been an awesome candidate.”

Being the only Black female on the staff, “That representation factor is something that I really value,” Hayes stressed. “Just super grateful to have the opportunity.” 

United Soccer Coaches last week named Hayes to the 2021-22 Class of the 30 Under 30 Program, selected from a pool of almost 300 applicants. She will receive an educational scholarship that will help play for United Soccer Coaches Convention registrations and choose an advanced diploma course.

Wisner began coaching at Utah in 2019—she played there (2009-13) and overseas and the NWSL for three seasons. “I’ve been coached by males all growing up, and I’ve had a few female assistant coaches,” she recalled. “I’ve worked with mostly males in my shorter coaching career. I think it was really important for me to surround myself with strong female leaders to keep learning in a different manner.”

An all-female staff is a big deal, Wisner said. “There should be more of them.” 

Added Hayes, “That’s a pretty big stat in and of itself.” But when asked if the Gopher players recognize this, she responded, “I don’t know if they have time right now to really sit [and reflect]. But I do think they recognize the value in having [an all-female] staff.”

“I think it’s really important to surround the young women in our program with really capable strong women as role models,” said Chastain.