Oregon State women's soccer making an impact off-the-pitch to fight systemic racism 

OSU Beavers

More than the college football world was impacted on August 11 when the Pac-12 Conference voted unanimously to postpone fall sports due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Pac-12 soccer teams also felt the summertime sadness too.

According to Oregon State women’s soccer coach Matt Kagan, it was a “sad day,” when he learned his team would not be taking the pitch this fall. Since learning the fate of Oregon State’s season, Kagan, a veteran of nine NCAA Tournament teams, has focused on making the rest of 2020 a positive for the Beavers. 

“Now, we’re just trying to turn a negative into a positive,” Kagan told Ron Callan on the latest Talkin’ Beavers podcast. “I told our team that’s our role as human beings on this team is to turn a negative into a positive. So, we’re training, and our training is going well, it’s distanced training. It’s no contact right now.”

He continued, “I think the thing I’m so proud about with our team is that they’re mature, they’ve adapted... that’s one of the reasons they had a successful season last year. I think another reason why we’re going to continue to be successful, I think our kids are going to go whenever it’s that time.”

After going 2-17 in 2018, Kagan led Oregon State to an 11-6-2 record and a win over the rival Ducks in his first season. The Beavs looked to build upon their successful 2019 campaign this season. That is, before fall play was suspended. 


Now, Oregon State soccer is looking to make an impact in other ways off-the-pitch.

In the wake of the protests following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Kagan said he and his team have made it a priority to have more eye-opening conversations.

“It’s taught me that I need to be a better listener as a coach,” Kagan said. “I think our staff would echo that. One of the things it’s taught me is to have open dialogue with our students and make sure they’re educated, and I need to educate myself more about these issues.”

Dozens of athletes from several Oregon State sports teams helped form the Dam Change initiative to educate, empower and enhance the experiences of Oregon State Black student-athletes and staff. 

Amongst those leading the efforts include women’s soccer defender Maddy Ellsworth, who shared her experiences with systemic racism on the Talkin’ Beavers podcast in July. Ellsworth and midfielder Skylar Herrera have been at the forefront of making sure Black Lives Matter conversations continue with the soccer season halted. 

“We just met with the two of them the other day to talk about now that we don’t have our season, how can we still honor the Black Lives Matter movement and what they wanted it to look like, and we want them to have a voice in it and we want them to be at the forefront of it,” Kagan said. “In our team, we’re thinking about being creative and doing different things so we can make sure that it’s not just an issue that’s passed, but we’re keeping it present.

“We’re having awesome conversations with our team.”

A spring concept is not off the board for Pac-12 sports, meaning the 2020-21 Oregon State women’s soccer season could still happen. Kagan views spring competition as eminently possible.

“I know we’ll be ready when the time comes,” Kagan said. “We’ll model our training around what they give us. So, it remains to be seen, but we’re excited for the prospect of playing this spring."

To hear more from Coach Kagan on his expectations for Oregon State when it takes the field, listen to the full Talkin’ Beavers podcast below.