Mount Royal University soccer coach Ryan Gyaki has always loved soccer, but an injury-ridden career in Europe resulted in him switching to coaching a lot sooner than he had planned. Although his career as an athlete was cut short, he says he has fallen in love with the game even more as a coach.

Gyaki always loved soccer as a child — even having the opportunity to represent his country at a youth level on Team Canada.

“Looking back now I feel like it was a special time, I was very proud. I hope I get back there one day to help the youth team anyway I can,” says Gyaki.

Even after his success at the youth level and a big move to England in 2003, Gyaki suffered an injury which derailed his career.

“I signed my contract on a Wednesday morning, and on Thursday I blew out my knee,” Gyaki explains. “I thought I’d just have surgery and move on, but after a year of recovery I hurt it again.”

Gyaki eventually transferred to the German team Hansa Rostok but the injury continued to stifle his efforts.

“I had another surgery on the same knee, so I had a lot of issues with that and I was also ill for about six months. I worked hard, but there are certain aspects of life that we can’t control,” says Gyaki, tearing up as he remembers his career overseas.

“So at the end I had to be realistic about the situation, should I still be playing if I can’t train three days without feeling pain?”

He eventually came back to Calgary to visit his family and found himself coaching a youth team at a sports camp in the city.Gyaki in his office trying to decipher the tactics of his opposition. Photo by Chijioke Ogan“My friend Tommy Wheelden tricked me into coaching with him and I started enjoying the game from a coaching standpoint. After working with him for a while, I went back to Europe to do my [coaching] licenses,” Gyaki explains.

Gyaki then moved on to volunteer as the Mount Royal University assistant coach and, after one year at the job, the head coach position opened up.

“Life has a little bit of luck to it, I was learning a lot from the then head coach and he had to move back home and so the people in charge gave me the opportunity,” says Gyaki.

With natural leaders like one of his players, Justin Anderson-Louch, Gyaki has put together a good team capable of competing with the best.

“I consider us to be defensively solid. We’ve conceded the least goals against in the league and then, when we win the ball, we’re electric going forward,” says Anderson-Louch. “I’d say we are clinical, scoring the third most goals in the league.”

Gyaki believes that winning at a high level is a very realistic goal for his team.

“We’ve continually tried to stabilize the team and we are proud of our medal last year, third in Canada west but we would definitely want to win a gold medal and get to nationals, that would be my big goal.”

Editor: Cassandra Woods  | cwoods@cjournal.ca