By Rick Moore
Kyndra de St. Aubin (B.A. ’03) takes a seat at a coffee shop in Blaine, about half a mile away from the National Sports Center complex that has been a focal point for much of her soccer-centered life. On this afternoon de St. Aubin—ebullient even without the caffeine—is recapping her professional odyssey and the offer that brought her home to Minnesota to join the broadcast team for the Minnesota United FC Loons, the state’s new Major League Soccer franchise.
Fourteen years ago, after playing soccer for the Golden Gophers and graduating with a degree in broadcast journalism, de St. Aubin (nee Hesse) landed her first job at an ESPN radio affiliate in Milwaukee. She put in 100-hour weeks at $6.50 an hour covering the Brewers, Bucks, Badgers, and Packers while doing sales. She then migrated west to Arizona and California, adding stints for the nascent Big Ten and Pac-12 Networks, as well as for Fox Sports. She continued to cover a gamut of sports including soccer, and for Fox Sports she worked a dozen matches at the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada.
At that tournament in Vancouver, de St. Aubin had a chance encounter with Ben Grossman, a minority owner of the Loons. Last August, Grossman unexpectedly told her he wanted her to join the Loons’ broadcast team. “I almost fell off my chair,” she says. And with that, de St. Aubin became the only female color commentator in Major League Soccer, working alongside play-by-play announcer Callum Williams and sideline reporter Jamie Watson. The icing on the cake? The Loons’ home this season is TCF Bank Stadium.
“It’s been everything I hoped it would be, and more,” says de St. Aubin. “For a long time I’ve gotten to cover what I love, but then to come home to Minnesota to do it, it’s like a double whammy—in a good way.”
The response to de St. Aubin’s work on Minnesota United’s broadcasts has been overwhelmingly positive, she says, which is remarkable given the strong feelings fans— not to mention internet trolls—tend to have for announcers. She grins. “Not that Twitter is the end-all, be-all, but [Callum, Jamie, and I] were saying, ‘Is something wrong with Twitter, because we haven’t gotten ripped yet.’”
She’s part of a wave of female announcers landing larger roles in sports broadcasting, moving from the sidelines to the studio and the booth. Hers is another step forward in the sometimes-glacial progress for women in broadcasting. “It’s cool to be recognized, but I’ll be glad when it’s no longer a topic,” she says.
Eventually she’d love to do more broadcasting on the international stage, like for the 2018 Men’s World Cup in Russia or the Olympics. But it can be hard to think much bigger when you’re hoping no one will shake you awake from the dream you’re already living.
“When you get to do what you love and [what] you’re passionate about, and you get paid for it, and you get to call it your job . . . not a lot of people get to do that in their lifetime,” she says.