Maya Gabruch, like every USports athlete, lost a complete season due to the pandemic, changing the way she prepares for her fifth and final season on the Saskatchewan Huskies women’s soccer team.
Although the 2019 All-Academic and First Team all-star is a standout on the pitch, registering the third-highest single-season goal total in Huskies history with nine in 2019, her attributes extend far beyond any scoresheet.
“Maya’s your typical quiet leader,” head coach Jerson Barandica-Hamilton explained. “She doesn’t say a lot at all, but, she likes to show it by example. There’s never a day that she’s not pushing herself to be better than yesterday.”
“I’m more of a lead by example type of person,” Gabruch agreed. “Maybe if someone sees me making an extra sprint or an extra run, and that sparks something within themselves. The quieter people, that’s who I looked up to when I was coming up, so maybe that’s why I took on that role.”
Her natural leadership ability combined with her athletic talents led her coach to suggest applying for a USports leadership program hosted by Olympic silver medalist and leadership behaviour specialist Dr. Cari Din.
Even with the vote of confidence from her coach, Gabruch was a bit apprehensive at first.
“When I clicked on the link, I was a little shocked,” she admitted. “I was like, I’m not sure if this suits me too well, maybe you should think of some other people to apply to this (program).”
Gabruch was then one of 16 USports athletes selected for the leadership program.
“Even right before the meeting, I remember logging into Zoom thinking, umm I don’t really belong here, but, let’s just give it a go.”
Following the session, apprehension had turned into elation.
“After doing the whole four-hour webinar, I was very grateful that I actually went through with it,” she said. “I texted my coach right afterward and thanked him for sending me the application and making me do it, it’s definitely something I’d do again.
“(Dr. Din) was really good at explaining how to be true to who you are,” Gabruch explained. “If you’re a quiet leader, that’s okay, you can stay that way. Just be honest with yourself and authentic.”
The fifth-year standout is excited to bring what she’s learned back to her team, something that could prove extremely critical this upcoming season, as the team has two years’ worth of first-year players joining the squad.
“I think it’s really important, it kind of allows everyone to know that no matter who you are, you’re going to be accepted on the team and belong,” Gabruch said. “And hopefully you feel like you’re contributing to the team. So, like, you just make sure that you can get in little conversations with them when you can.”
“She’s mentoring younger players,” Barandica-Hamilton said. “She’s one of our highest academic players, she’s been an All-Canadian all four years, she’s trying to get into medicine, and on top of that, she’s performing on the field. I think the players see the amount of work that is necessary to achieve that and they feed off of that and they learn.”