Maverick youth coaches named Coaches of the Year

Minnesota State University, Mankato seniors Emilee Thomas and Molly Nhean were recently named International Coaches of the Year for Girls on the Run. The two have coached youth in the Mankato area throughout their time at MSU, in addition to other commitments. 

Nhean and Thomas both became involved with GOTR through their sorority, where they both hold leadership positions. 

“I got involved through Gamma Phi Beta. I love GOTR because it’s building young individuals to become confident in themselves, and feel comfortable to be their true authentic selves,” said Nhean, the chapter’s president.

The Fall 2022 season is Thomas’ sixth working with the youth in Mankato.

“GOTR is a program for third through fifth grade girls for team-building and confidence. It’s not that much running– it’s about building strong girls,” said Thomas, the administrative vice president.

The teams meet for a few months each spring and fall, two times a week, and volunteers from MSU alternate coaching their team once or twice a week. 

“Typically, we just hang out for about 15 minutes to build a relationship. Then we introduce them to the theme of the day– the first meeting was about connectedness and working with your team. Then we do stretches, and then running activities,” said Thomas. 

The two have strong bonds with the girls they work with. This season is Nhean’s fifth with GOTR, but this year she is working with different students than years previous. 

“I’m at a different site this season. I’m always going to wonder how the other girls are doing now. I always think about them,” said Nhean. 

The two were nominated by peers and GOTR for the international award, and 12 coaches were chosen out of 10,000 applicants. 

“I was nominated by of the girls I coach and her grandma. She was able to see the connection I had with her grandaughter and show that through this nomination, and it warmed my heart. There are not enough words to express how happy I was,” said Nhean. 

Nhean and Thomas received the award in front of their GOTR teams and the Fraternity and Sorority community. 

“The award was presented to us at the All Greek Ceremony on campus. Our youth programming coordinator at YWCA came in and gave it to us there,” said Thomas. 

Both Nhean and Thomas feel their involvement with GOTR has had a positive effect on their experience at MSU. 

“Coaching teaches you patience at times– they’re a crazy group. During the season, if I’m ever having a bad day and then I go coach, I feel better afterward because they’re so fun to interact with,” said Thomas.

While both are busy with schoolwork, Gamma Phi Beta and other commitments, they always make time for their teams. 

“I’ve gotten busier each semester. As president of Gamma Phi Beta, it’s a lot of work on top of that, so I try to coach at least once a week. I love doing it. I stretch myself thin, but I’m so happy to be involved with these girls. The girls inspire me every day to be the best version of myself, and I love seeing them grow into empowered young individuals,” said Nhean. 

Nhean, who is majoring in social work and minoring in non-profit leadership, hopes to continue her volunteer work with GOTR and beyond.

“I’ve thought about doing more volunteering with YWCA or similar organizations. It’s always been a passion for me. As a youth, it can be difficult to have your voice heard, and I want to provide that path for youth in the community,” said Nhean.

Header Photo: Molly Nhean (left) and Emilee Thomas were 12 coaches out of 10,000 applicants to win the Girls on the Run International Coaches of the Year. (Lilly Anderson/The Reporter)

Write to Alexandra Tostrud at

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