Minnesota’s Aurora Football Team is a grassroots success story

Andrea Josh dug into her bag after the recent Minnesota Aurora game against the St. Louis Lions. Hers is a Mary Poppins level bag, containing two sets of clothes, shoes, contact lenses, glasses, water, notes, pens, keys and anything else you need during the day.

“Once in a while, I sneak in a little Gray Duck for post-game,” she says, flashing a small bottle of vodka.

Yosh, 55, is the head coach of the first-year Aurora women’s soccer team, a professional soccer team. The majority of guys are in college, trying to hone their skills over the summer. The team is groundbreaking in terms of being owned and operated by women and funded by a community of 3,080 fans who have invested a total of $1 million to help with initial operating costs.

All nine founders of the team are involved in every aspect of gaming operations, ensuring that players are fed, equipment is provided, ticket requests are handled, and interviews are arranged with players and coach Nikol Lukic. Occasionally, Yosh loves her husband, Steve, and when they’re in town, her adult sons, Ryan and Ben, help out with the games.

“My family has always been in good shape,” Josh says. “We are basically a volunteer organization and in order to make it work, we need a lot of hands.”

Yoch covers every inch of TCO Stadium in Eagan, where Aurora plays, on game days. After this particular game, I checked her pedometer: just under 14,000 per day.

“I averaged 13,000-16,000 steps in a game,” she says.

Aurora’s first year was a smash success, as the team was undefeated during the regular season and reached the playoffs. All of their revenue expectations were exceeded. Yosh sat down to chat about her career, her love of football and the enormity of Aurora’s success. Interview has been edited for length and clarity.

where do you come from? Have you always been a fan of sports?

I grew up in Baltimore, a mile from Memorial Stadium. My parents are immigrants and my dad and I watched sports so he could feel more comfortable in a country with a sporting passion. The Orioles were in the world championships in ’79 and they won in ’83 and that locked me up for life. Sports fan is America’s biggest equalizer. Everyone becomes your friend and you are united with one goal in mind.

How did you end up in Minnesota?

I met my husband at Boston College. When I graduated with a degree in journalism and applied for jobs in the sports departments on the East Coast, no one wanted a young girl. These days, I’d be employed, but after that, not so much. my husband [then boyfriend] From here and I was in the University of Minnesota Law School, so I decided to apply for jobs in Minnesota.

Being a part of Aurora isn’t the first time you’ve been an innovator.

I was the first sports editor for a Boston College student newspaper. It was fun. I only had a problem with one coach, I had to travel for the first time with the teams, I went to Ireland with the football team, I packed friends into my hotel room at the Big East Championships and met people like [columnist] Jackie McMullane and some of my close friends. I was also the Albert Lea Tribune’s first sports editor as well, the job I got when I moved here.

Does football appear on the TV in your house all day?

All the time. Not much for me because I don’t watch much. But yesterday, on my day off, I sat on the couch and Nashville was playing at 4 p.m. and my boyfriend [former Minnesota United player] Jimmy Watson calls those games. So I watched it. Then I watched Minnesota United at seven. If it’s winter, you know that Wild is ready for me. Never miss a match for the Vikings. So it’s just a general sports family. And my husband is from the hardcore Premier League. So if the Premier League is going on, the match has started.

Only you and your husband at home now? Where do you have it?

Yes, one in Boston and one in New York, but it’s a constant string of texts from my kids. They were out here on opening night which was great.

Who are your favorite football players?

Jessica MacDonald [USA]. Megan Rapinoe [USA]. [Minnesota United’s] Michael Boxall. [Tottenham’s] Son Heung Min. [Former Minnesota United player] Christian Ramirez.

What is the best sporting event you have watched?

This is a difficult question. I can list 20 events and not get to all of them. Wednesday night’s win in the quarter-finals with 6,200 fans packed into TCO Stadium was amazing and emotional. Game 163 in 2009 [Twins vs. Tigers] for personal memories. My oldest son was 10 and was actually going into twins and I pulled him out of school early.

Was this year all you imagined?

I did not imagine this. I have a very big and ambitious imagination and it has crossed that limit. We budgeted 3,000 fans for the game. We never had less than 4800 in the building for any of our home games. We budgeted for $50,000 merchandise sales. We got through that well. We set aside $80,000 in sponsorship. We got through that well. So we were a long way from what we had hoped for.

Why did the interest rise more than you expected?

I think people over the past few years have become very aware that women’s sports are not being treated very well. I attribute a lot of that to the brave women who photographed the locker rooms of the NCAA Final Four and really showed the difference.

What we said is: Yes, there are disparities. This is an easy solution. And I think, especially right now, people want to do something very concrete. Buy tickets. show. Buy merchandise. Our support is tangible. Also, it’s fun. Especially in Minnesota. We needed something good, we needed something positive.

We needed to be able to respond to the country: “We have this.” We are still recovering from the death and consequences of George Floyd. And I think this was a very positive way for people to come together and feel good about being from Minnesota.

Also, we have deliberately set our ticket prices so that they are more affordable for families.

How do you maintain this with Aurora?

Staying in touch with our fan base will be huge in the off season and will continue to stay in the community with them. Making sure we hear their feedback about what they want to change. This is going to be really important because this experience has been great and we don’t want them to feel disconnected from us for the next few months.

Why was it important for the club to release a statement of disappointment after Roe’s decision against Wade was overturned?

This was a really good example of how this project works. There are nine founders, and while I’m the team leader, it was more because we needed one person to be the team boss. We make big decisions together, so we spent about two hours crafting the statement, and wait a bit to see what the other teams are up to. And then when nothing was coming, it was clear, we just needed to go.

Gotham City in the Women’s National Football League, we saw their statement first, but it’s really important to us that this team represents our fans, our players and equality for all. And so, we really felt like we needed to stand up and say something.

You are an empty nest. You could decide to travel. I decided to run a football team.

So, [laughs] One of the greatest ironies of this is that when I first moved here in 1989, I spent about 10 years trying to get Steve to leave because I was like, why, why are we here? Now, he’s ready to leave or at least spend the winter somewhere else, and I’m like, “Oh no, we should stay.” Thirty-three years later I am Minnesota’s biggest fan.

Well, we’re not doing it in the right order but it’s very exciting. It’s so much fun I’m not ready to do that and lie on the beach just yet. We still have a lot to do. As my friend Chris Hook says, let the adventure continue. So we will continue the adventure.