Gophers bare their soles

Three Gophers have expressed themselves in different ways while wearing their shoes.

Gopher women's masketball players Shayne Mullaney, Amanda Zahui B. and Kayla Hirt pose with their athletic sneakers in the Williams Arena on Friday afternoon.

Liam James Doyle

Gopher women’s masketball players Shayne Mullaney, Amanda Zahui B. and Kayla Hirt pose with their athletic sneakers in the Williams Arena on Friday afternoon.

Matt Greenstein

During halftime and timeouts of each game, junior guard Shayne Mullaney looks down at her shoes.

Written in black sharpie on the toe of the left shoe is “PTL” — which stands for “Praise the Lord,” she said.

And written in the same spot on the right Nike is “AO1,” which stands for “an audience of one.”

Different athletes express themselves in different ways on the court, and the Gophers do the same through their shoes.

Mullaney has spent her time on the Gophers expressing herself while facilitating the offense.

However, her shoes have given her a new sense of expression.

“I went to this camp after my freshman year in the summer in Colorado. It’s called ‘Ultimate Training Camp’, and it’s through ‘Athletes in Action,’ a Christian ministry for athletes. You kind of learn at this camp how to apply your faith to your sport,” Mullaney said.

Mullaney has been able to express herself through her shoes, but she’s isn’t the only one on her team who does that.

On one of redshirt sophomore Amanda Zahui B.’s pairs, she has written the names of loved ones.

“I write on my shoes just because I want to show my appreciation to those who I am playing for. And for those who have helped me get this far. But [it] also [motivates] me to play better and harder when I feel weak,” Zahui B. said in a text message.

While Mullaney and Zahui B. have used their shoes as a form of expression, redshirt junior Kayla Hirt has a different sort of motivation for the footwear.

“It started my senior year of high school. I started becoming obsessed with always having a pair of shoes that match my outfit or style for the day,” Hirt said.

Differing motivations

Scattered everywhere along the inside of Hirt’s closet lay more than 100 pairs of shoes.

Among the clutter sit multiple pairs of shoes that the University of Minnesota has provided for the team.

“It’s always a bonus being able to get brand-new shoes because [that means] our team is being successful. Most recently, we got a pair of shoes and I like them so much, I don’t want to wear them,” Hirt said.

Periodically during the season, the Gophers wear all-black uniforms. And with the new uniforms, come new shoes.

But Zahui B.’s simplistic attitude allows her to look past the material item.

“I get excited when we get new shoes. I am not the kind of person who needs a lot of basketball shoes,” Zahui B. said. “I usually wear my one pair till they are broken down to the max.”

An object as simple as a pair of shoes isn’t often associated with inspiration.

And while writing on the shoes can give the pair an additional feature to look at, Mullaney’s cognitions are much more spiritual.

“[The shoes] usually get pretty worn down. It’s pretty cool to see a shoe from when you get it to the end of the season,” Mullaney said. “You just think of how
much time and energy you’ve put into the game.”