BEYOND THE BOOK BLOG

Pioneers: Kim Wyant, Still Making History

Published: February 26, 2021
Written by: Paul Tukey
Kim Wyant . . . coaching the men of New York University

INTRODUCING: Kim Wyant

COLLEGE: The University of Central Florida

DON’T MESS WITH MOM: Growing up in Miami, Kim was often the best athlete playing whatever sport was in season, even though everyone else participating was a boy. For many years, her favorite pastimes were BMX bike racing, also against boys, and baseball — from which the male administrators attempted to ban her due to her gender. Faith Wyant, a single Mom, wasn’t having any part of that decision. “She threatened to sue them for all they were worth,” said Kim. “My Mom always fought. Hard.”

Kim . . . the champion BMX bike racer, circa age 12

NOTEWORTHY: Kim continued with BMX racing, against men and women, well into her adulthood and is considered one of the sport’s significant pioneers who helped bring BMX racing to the Olympics in 2008.

MAKING COLLEGIATE HISTORY: When the NCAA staged the first-ever women’s national championship in soccer in 1982, Kim was the starting freshman goalie for UCF. Even though her team lost to North Carolina, she was named the tournament’s first most valuable player.

NATIONAL TEAM: When Kim traveled to the 1985 Olympic Sports Festival in Baton Rouge, La., none of the players had any idea that coach Mike Ryan would be picking the first U.S. Women’s National Team at the end of the 10-day, four-team tournament. “When I look back on that now, I’m kind of in awe that it all actually happened,” said Kim. “It strikes me that, unlike today where kids have internships and real jobs, we were hanging out at a festival for 10 days. Then we get picked for the National Team and they tell us, ‘Oh, by the way, we’re going to Italy in a couple of weeks, so you need to go home and get your passport and then be up in New York to train.’ When you look back on that, even though we lived it, you think, ‘Wow! What a beginning.” Kim was the starting goaltender in the first-ever National Team game on Aug. 18 that summer.

Kim . . . the National Team goaltender in Taiwan in 1987

HANGING ON: With no women’s professional soccer leagues, staying in game shape for whenever the National Team might call, at a moment’s notice, was a challenge — especially after Kim tore her anterior cruciate ligament in 1986. An industrious leader, even back then, she often formed her own teams for the U.S. Women’s Open Cup each summer just so she’d have games to play.

A HAUNTING MEMORY: Throughout her decade-long National Team career that included nine game appearances, Kim figures her best chance of playing in the World Cup would have come in 1995, but feels a single moment in 1994 might have derailed her chances. Playing in a scrimmage that January in California, she allowed a relatively easy shot — a “soft goal” — to slip through her hands and into the net. “The stakes were higher by then because we knew the World Cup was around the corner and the Olympics were coming,” she said. “That was so deflating, to me and the team. I remember being at the airport and the assistant coach, Lauren Gregg, came over to me and put her hand on my back and said, ‘Hang in there.’ But I can’t help but feel like that sealed my fate. At that level, the line between playing, sitting on the bench, or getting cut, is just so razor thin.” Kim’s final opportunity to prove herself would come in the fall of 1995 as the National Team gathered in Chula Vista, Calif., to begin preparations for the 1996 Olympics, which was the first time women’s soccer would be contested in the Games. By then, future legend Briana Scurry, backed up by Saskia Webber and Mary Harvey, had a lock on the goaltending position. “I never actually retired from the National Team,” said Kim. “I eventually just stopped getting invited into their camps.”

INSPIRATIONAL STORY: “One of the things I took away from that last camp in Chula Vista, and I continue to tell young players about today, was the story of Brandi Chastain,” said Kim. “She was cut after the 1991 World Cup. She had some injuries. But she loved the game and eventually went to Japan and joined a professional team over there to get playing time. Tony DiCicco was National Team coach by then and Brandi would call Tony every single week to remind him that she wanted to play for him and that she was ready. When we get to camp that October, Mia Hamm is there. Julie Foudy. Kristine Lilly. And Brandi is the best player in camp, by far, in the best shape, running circles around people. But Tony meets with her and says, ‘You’re a forward. I don’t need a forward . . . but I do need an outside defensive back.’ Some people might have been crushed or insulted by that. Brandi says, ‘Tony, I’ll carry the water bottles if it means I can be on the team.’”

THE PLAYER-COACH: Kim began coaching the Florida Atlantic University women in 1995, but traveled to New York in the summers to participate in the W-League, a semiprofessional network of teams that included many National Teamers and collegiate players. By 2001, after many years as the league’s best goaltender for the Long Island Lady Riders, she also began coaching the team and continued as head coach for three years after she retired as a player in 2003. At that point, she began coaching at Dowling College on Long Island in New York before eventually agreeing to help out at New York University as a part-time assistant with the women’s team.

MORE HISTORY: In 2015, when the men’s coach at NYU resigned suddenly for family health reasons after just one game that season, the university immediately turned to Kim to pick up the pieces. Some on-line sources still call Kim the first woman to ever coach an NCAA men’s team, but that distinction appears to belong to Liz Belyea who, way back in 1980, became the men's coach at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Amy Machin-Ward, a former North Carolina standout, also became men’s soccer coach at Regis College in Massachusetts in 1992.

BATTLES OF THE SEXES: Kim, who is profiled and offers her views on gender differences in Chapter 1 of our book, "Raising Tomorrow’s Champions," doesn’t subscribe to the theory that coaching men and women is substantially different, nor does she believe needs to behave any differently with her current team than she did with her past women’s teams. “If I even tried to be someone I’m not, by yelling more, being louder, that wouldn’t be me and the players would see through that in a second,” said Kim. “The key to success in anything you do is to be authentic.”

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2 comments on “Pioneers: Kim Wyant, Still Making History”

  1. Kim Wyant is one of the most authentic natural leaders I have ever met!
    Her calm demeanor and self assured confidence provides a sense of stability for those she leads.
    I am proud to have her as a Member of the Long Island Soccer Player Hall of Fame a Board Member and to call her a friend.

    1. She certainly is an amazing woman, worthy of a biography unto herself. I've been privileged to get to know her!

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