STAFF OPINION: Being a UP men’s soccer student-manager

My journey and experience volunteering as a student-manager for the NCAA Division I Pilot’s men’s soccer team

By Aidan Hyde | May 2, 2024 1:30pm

Photo courtesy of Aidan Hyde.

For the last three years, I have been a volunteer student-manager for the University of Portland men’s soccer team. I love football (soccer) and it has always been my dream to play at the highest level. I hope that one day, I will achieve my goal of playing football for the Pilots. But for now, just being a part of the staff has given me so much joy and experience. 

When I was making my college commitment during my senior year of high school, football was always a big part of my decision. I graduated high school in 2021, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. I had been working hard on and off the pitch so that I could have the best chance of playing football in college, ideally at a Division I school. 

When COVID-19 hit, it was as if all of my dreams faded away. NCAA schools stopped recruiting, college coaches canceled my official visits, my teams stopped playing and several high-level tournaments that I was supposed to attend were canceled. 

The only thing I could do was continue to work hard in school and train on my own to keep improving. I attended a few of the University of Portland Men’s Soccer College ID camps during my freshman and sophomore years in high school. I loved everything about the football and the school. 

When I was accepted into the University of Portland through my academic merit, my first reaction was to email the coaches of UP Men’s Soccer to tell them that I had gotten in and planned to accept my enrollment at UP. I wanted so badly to get a spot on the team my first year, but unfortunately, graduating seniors were granted an extra year of eligibility to play due to the interruption of COVID-19. This created fewer roster spots for the coaches to give to incoming players. 

Just before the start of my first year at UP, I attended another UP Men’s Soccer ID camp. There, I talked with the coaches and discussed my options for possibly playing football for the University of Portland. The coaches told me they couldn’t offer me a roster spot, but if I wanted to, I could join the program as a student-manager and maybe get a chance to play on the team as an upperclassman if I worked hard. 

I was extremely disappointed to be unable to play, but throughout my entire footballing career, I have gotten used to being on the sidelines. I had several long-term injuries in high school that pushed me to get into coaching. I had to be around football; it hurt me too much not to be. Before I got to UP, I already had a coaching license plus the experience of coaching two teams from my old club San Francisco Elite Academy. Just because you are not playing doesn’t mean that you can’t affect the game in other ways.

As a student-manager, my job consists of several coaching-like responsibilities. I arrive at the field — normally river campus practice fields — for training every day an hour to 30 minutes before the team is scheduled to start training. I correspond with the coaches to help them set up training and with anything else they need. Setup can include helping move goals out, moving mini-goals, setting up cones, making sure the dimensions for certain drills are correct, getting pinnies and setting up recording software.

There are several perks to being a student-manager. For example, I get priority registration and team gear, but the most important thing for me is being part of an amazing team culture. It is a big time commitment, especially since I am an unpaid volunteer, but I couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else when I’m out on the field with the team.

On game days, my job is to set up the field and help the coaches with whatever they need during warm-up. Sometimes I fly a drone to film our games, but if the drone is not being used, I’ll be on the sidelines with the team, supporting the players on the pitch. Some of my favorite moments from college have been in our team huddles or celebrating big goals in the corner of the pitch on Merlo Field.

Being part of such a strong football team here at UP has allowed me to learn from and watch players who are now in the MLS, players who are now playing football overseas and, most importantly, players who are better than me. Every day, I watch coaches constantly push players to improve, and this environment makes me push myself to become the player and person that I strive to be. 

I want to thank the entirety of the UP Men’s Soccer program for bringing me into a culture of positivity, winning and improvement. With each day on the field, I feel more and more grateful to be part of such an amazing family. I am still waiting for my chance to play, but I am so proud to be a student-manager. I am proud to call myself a lifelong Pilot. One team, one goal, one family.

Aidan Hyde is a sports reporter for the Beacon. He can be reached at

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