Challenging Young Men To Be Great: Head Coach Wyant On The Role of College Soccer
Originally Published in May 2020
Playing collegiate soccer is a dream for many youth soccer players and securing a roster spot is an honor. Playing college soccer is an exciting experience and one earned through hard work, dedication, and skill — and it is a real test of responsibility and accountability. Beyond the experiences on the pitch, playing college soccer prepares you for life after graduation.
Currently, the only female head coach of an NCAA men’s soccer team, Kim Wyant has led New York University to an overall 35-32-6 record with four consecutive post-season bids. Going into her sixth season in charge at NYU, Wyant inspires her players to be their best on and off the field.
As a player, Wyant is the former goalkeeper for the first U.S. Soccer Women’s National Team (USWNT) and protected the net in our country’s inaugural match in Italy in 1985. Wyant is responsible for the Women’s first shutout as the team earned it’s victory, a 2-0 win against Canada in 1986. In 2008, Wyant received the National Soccer Hall of Fame, Special Recognition Award. According to U.S. Soccer, “Wyant and her teammates laid the groundwork for Americans to compete in, excel in and dominate the international women’s game.”
Wyant, along with her Assistant Coach, Joseph Ruesgen, has built a highly successful collegiate program at NYU. Working with hundreds of players over her career, Wyant understands the immense value college soccer brings to its players, its institution of higher learning, and to the game itself.
While everyone hopes colleges and universities across America will be welcoming back students on campus, at the time of publishing, the world is still in the grip of the Coronavirus COVID-19, and the fall college season is uncertain. We hope to cover NYU playing the upcoming fall soccer season soon!
The pandemic has impacted soccer around the globe and created an unprecedented environment with significant financial consequences. As just one measure of impact, the NCAA states the financial impact of canceling the men’s and women’s basketball NCAA tournaments, known as March Madness, was about $375 million.* While the pandemic’s total financial impact on college sports is uncalculated, it is obvious that resources will be tightened in the coming months. Perhaps this is a good time to reflect on the often unspoken values of playing college soccer.
Diane Scavuzzo Interviews NYU’s Men’s Head Coach Kim Wyant:
Diane Scavuzzo: What does college soccer provide to the student-athlete today?
Kim Wyant: College athletics has extremely high value — whether it’s soccer, or baseball, softball, or any collegiate sport.
Collegiate soccer gives players an opportunity to extend their playing career in a very serious, structured, and competitive environment. College soccer also provides students a deep sense of school spirit and camaraderie — playing for something larger than themselves.
Being on a collegiate team provides students an opportunity to join a culture, and be part of a positive culture and to contribute to the success of that culture.
It gives players a chance to step into an arena that allows them to further develop as a person, as an athlete.
I can also speak from my own personal experience.
If it wasn’t for the ability to play soccer in college and get a scholarship, I’m not so sure I would’ve had the benefit of a college education. College soccer had a tremendous impact on my own personal life because it opened up many, many doors.
I’m not so sure what I would have been doing if I had not stepped on the campus at the University of Central Florida (UCF). If it wasn’t for the fact that the UCF added Women’s Soccer and funded it, I personally would not have had the opportunity to go to college.
Diane Scavuzzo: From your perspective, what is the value of NYU’s Men’s Soccer Program?
Kim Wyant: What NYU is providing to their athletes in their soccer program is very valuable.
In addition to all the soccer-specific experiences and training, collegiate soccer prepares players for life.
I know that employers are very keen to hire former college athletes because they know that these college students have tested themselves beyond what they’re doing in the classroom —and dedicating 20 or 30 hours additionally a week to just their athletics. Employers know that these student-athletes are more disciplined and more resilient.
It is very easy to understand why people consider our players more dependable — they’ve been tested in this demanding environment.
Diane Scavuzzo: I assume college students need to have time management skills to be able to juggle all this responsibility?
Kim Wyant: Yes. Excellent time management skills.
Diane Scavuzzo: Is this why some people say that playing collegiate soccer is almost like having a job in college?
Kim Wyant: I think they say it because you are layering another activity with lots of responsibilities on top of being a student, which already has huge requirements.
The reason that you’re in college or at a university is to get an education — to meet other people, have a social life, and expand your horizon. But, because you’re spending 20 to 30 hours per week dedicating yourself to your sport — you’ve got to make sure that you’re diligent with your time management. And, you have to take care of yourself, making sure you’re getting enough sleep and the right nutrition. I think that’s probably why some people refer to it as a job and why employers are very keen on college athletes because they know that they have been tested in ways that other college students haven’t.
Being on a collegiate team is like going into the work environment — you need to know how to get along with other people. You need to know how to reach a compromise.
Other people are depending on you and you have to be accountable to your teammates.
There is a resilience that a player learns by being on a collegiate team.
Not always getting what you want, and dealing with disappointment, plus learning how you deal with recovery builds real character.
Diane Scavuzzo: How competitive is soccer on a DIII level?
Kim Wyant: It’s very competitive. NYU plays in one of the most competitive conferences, and unlike other DIII programs, our conference has a travel schedule that requires us to get on airplanes to get to games — so it resembles more of a DI school experience.
Diane Scavuzzo: And, with all the uncertainty of the Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, do you expect to have a fall Men’s Soccer season at NYU?
Kim Wyant: I think the only way you can have a sports program is if a University or a College can get the students back on campus, integrated into the classroom and the dorm — so that’s going to be the first priority. Any sports related activities are lower on the priority list right now as the focus is on the health, well being, and the safety of the students.
Diane Scavuzzo: So if you had a magic wand, what would you ask for?
Kim Wyant: If I had a magic wand and I could wave it and say, “Poof,” what I would say poof too is, “Here’s your vaccine, there it is right there and here are 3 billion vaccinations right away.”
Diane Scavuzzo: And, it’s all free.
Kim Wyant: Right, and it’s all free and let’s get people inoculated.
Diane Scavuzzo: What would you tell our readers who know soccer players who are planning on being off to play collegiate soccer when it starts?
Kim Wyant: I would tell them what we’re telling our recruits and that just follows what your club teams are asking of you. I know that many clubs and coaches who are still very invested in their players and are delivering programs in the most innovative ways.
Diane Scavuzzo: When you get your NYU players back, do you think it’s going to be harder to get them ready for the season? I know you have a very short period of time. Back to that magic wand, how do you want your players to show up?
Kim Wyant: Well, I would just hope that players are being true to themselves and being accountable to themselves.
I hope they are training in whatever environment that they can and following the appropriate safety guidelines.
I would hope that they would come in as fit as possible so they’re still being mindful of their fitness both with regard to running and whatever weight training they have been able to be self-creating.
And so, I hope we can have a base standard of fitness when we restart.
Diane Scavuzzo: Any final thoughts?
Kim Wyant: At NYU, we had five faculty members who have passed away from the Coronavirus, including our equipment manager.
We have to think about returning to play from a health and a wellbeing perspective, and what is in the best interest of the students, the faculty, and the parents.
Right now, during this pandemic, of course, kids are missing something that they love to do, and a lot of these kids have been playing soccer since they were five and six years old.
But soccer will return, eventually.
- Reference from MarketWatch