Adversity doesn’t stop senior captain Thyken

Katie Thyken was named a player to watch by the Big Ten for this season.

Minnesota midfielder Katie Thyken fights for the ball against Louisiana State on Sept. 6, 2013

Image by Daily File Photo, Chelsea Gortmaker

Minnesota midfielder Katie Thyken fights for the ball against Louisiana State on Sept. 6, 2013

by Ben Gotz

For senior captain Katie Thyken, one quote seems to sum up what she’s all about.

“It doesn’t matter if you get knocked down; it’s whether you get back up,” Thyken said. “That’s my favorite quote.”

On the surface, the phrase seems meaningful because Thyken has dealt with injuries in the past. She said there have been a few times when she’s lain on the field and needed to pick herself back up.

But beyond the quote’s literal meaning, it stands for the work ethic and attitude that Thyken brings to the field.

“That kid gives 100 percent of what she has. If she has 80 percent, she gives you 100 percent of that 80 percent,” head coach Stefanie Golan said. “She plays through a lot of things. She fights through everything.”

Thyken’s passion sets an example for her teammates and helps push them to improve, Golan said. And Thyken’s experience and leadership is welcome to a team with 16 underclassmen on the roster, including nine freshmen.

“She’s one of the players that everyone on our team really looks up to,” sophomore midfielder Josee Stiever said. “She’s the hardest worker I’ve ever seen.”

The respect Thyken’s teammates hold for her was evident when they selected her as one of the team’s captains before the season. The Gophers select their captains through a unique process in which the team lists certain qualities they desire in a leader and then votes on which players best exemplify those qualities.

“We were looking for leaders both on and off the field and people that really will be able to bring our team up if heads fall,” Stiever said. “Those motivators, and people that will always be on the field and help us get going and pick us up.”

The three qualities Golan noted as being most important to the team this year were: “leads by example,” “holds people to a standard” and “approachable.”

Golan said Thyken “far and away” ended up as the team’s top selection for the role of captain because she displays those traits every day.

“She can get on people and hold them to a standard because she holds herself to that same standard,” she said. “It’s not like she’s barking at people and not putting [effort] out there herself. She leads by example first and foremost, and people respect the heck out of that.”

Teammates said Thyken approaches them during games and practice after a play is over, talking to them if anything went wrong and figuring out how to adjust moving forward.

“If we don’t connect or [a play] doesn’t work out, she’s really good at letting me know where I should have been, or what I can do better for next time,” sophomore forward Simone Kolander said. “She’s always reassuring me and communicating with me right away.”

The distinction of serving as the team’s captain isn’t something Thyken takes lightly.

“It’s a really big honor since you get picked from your teammates. It’s not the coaches,” Thyken said. “We have four [captains] this year, and it’s an honor to be one of those four.”