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Kim Wyant looks forward to challenge of coaching NYU men's soccer team

NYU men's soccer coach Kim Wyant looks on

NYU men's soccer coach Kim Wyant looks on during a game against Manhattanville at Gaelic Park in Riverdale, N.Y. on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015. Credit: Patrick E. McCarthy

As an original member and first goalkeeper of the U.S. women's national team three decades ago, Kim Wyant is considered a women's soccer pioneer.

When she stepped out onto Gaelic Field in the Bronx to coach the New York University men's team for the first time Saturday afternoon, Wyant again made history, becoming one of a handful of women to coach a men's team.

But don't mention the word "pioneer'' to her.

"That's such a strong word," she said. "I happen to be in an unusual situation because I am a woman coaching a men's team because it's not common right now. I think it will become more common not only in soccer but in other sports. So I can't give myself enough credit to call myself a pioneer.

"Am I one of the first doing it? OK, yes, the facts are the facts. I'm happy to do it and I'm proud to do it. For me, this is a coaching challenge. It's stimulating as a coach. It's challenging as a coach. I felt I was qualified, and that's why I'm doing it."

The East Meadow resident is the only woman currently coaching a Division III men's soccer team, according to information given to the NYU sports information department by the NCAA and the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. But she isn't the first woman to guide a men's team.

During a whirlwind three days, the 51-year-old Wyant was offered the job after Joe Behan resigned because of family health reasons Thursday.

An assistant with the NYU women's team, Wyant was forced to make a quick decision.

"I was speechless. I was shocked," she said Saturday after NYU lost, 3-1, to Manhattanville College. "My very first thought was excitement, confusion, concern obviously for Joe . . . and just wow!"

Wyant, who met with the team for the first time Friday, had never coached a male team but had worked with male players.

"The players are bigger, they're stronger, they're faster. But football is football and managing players is managing players," she said. "The game is no different."

NYU did not make much fanfare of Wyant's debut. During pregame introductions, it was business as usual as the public address announcer bellowed:

"The coach for NYU in her first season is Kim Wyant, assisted by Paul Le Sueur."

During the game, Wyant stood and conferred with Le Sueur, a member of the original Cosmos team. Le Sueur assisted her with the New York Athletic Club team that captured the 2014 national women's amateur cup.

"Everything since my introduction from yesterday to today has gone seamless," she said. "There has been no distractions. There's been no drama. The players have been fantastic. They have been professional. They have stepped up to the challenge that has been handed to them. Obviously, I would have wished for a very different result today for their emotional well-being."

Having a woman coaching a men's team was not an issue.

Said athletic director Christopher Bledsoe, "That we can pull somebody with her experience, with her skill set, with her group of talents, with the people she is able to touch on in a short period of time, and put them together with our team is the big piece of the story. That she also happens to be a woman, great. But that certainly wasn't the reason why she was put into the position."

Wyant's background as a player and coach swayed the players.

"I just heard her track record and it was impressive, so . . . she knows her soccer," freshman defender Niko Patrk said. "It's just a matter of us building a bond as a team with her. That's going to take a little bit of time, but it'll come."

Added junior midfielder Petter Aasa: "Gender doesn't matter for a coach."

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