Katie Thyken: Shooting for the Goal

Katie Thyken doesn’t waste opportunities— whether for shots on goal or putting a spare 10 minutes to good use by opening up a textbook.

The junior majoring in mechanical engineering is considering a career in medical devices.

“I always say my dream job would be to make a Luke Skywalker mechanical hand,” she said.

Her 16-credit academic load requires 30-40 hours of study per week—on top of the 25 hours she devotes to soccer during the fall season.

Thyken grew up in Eden Prairie, Minn., and often watched Gophers soccer. She was recruited after University of Minnesota coaches saw her at a soccer camp.

I’m most productive when I don’t have free time, and I just have to get stuff done.”

--Katie Thyken

She has learned the discipline of time management by watching her father, an information technology executive with a demanding job but who always carved out time to coach her soccer teams and attend games. “He taught me if you have little chunks of time, do something productive,” she said. “Don’t just laze around.”

Katie Thyken_soccerThose chunks of time add up. A spare 20 minutes? Thyken will read a few pages of textbook, flip through class notes or drop into a professor’s office hours.

“It’s definitely a lot of running from place to place and not having down time,” she said. “At the same time, I’m most productive when I don’t have free time, and I just have to get stuff done.”

She doesn’t go out often, either because she doesn’t have time or because she is too tired after soccer. She doesn’t watch much television and doesn’t have time to participate in academic clubs.

Thyken spends about 25 hours per week on soccer. This includes two hours of daily practice and two games per weekend. Away games require a full weekend of travel by bus or plane. It’s a year-round commitment that includes the fall competitive season plus training in spring, winter, and summer breaks.

Luckily, an athletic team provides a built-in social life. “I’m closer with all of these girls than most of the people I’ve met in school,” said Thyken. “You spend so much time with them and travel with them. They become family. It’s cool because you have 23 of your best friends that you get to see every day.”