This is Heather’s story. Originally from Connecticut (home of ESPN!!), she currently lives in Florida spending her days helping kids learn how great it is to get up and move. She has two dogs and a sarcastic wit, but more than anything she loves the beautiful game. Let’s meet her.
Q: Tell us about your very first soccer game.
A: I’ve been playing since birth… But I saw Kristine Lilly and her team play in New Britain when I was young. We were so proud of her and excited she had come home for a game! I saw Mia Hamm play in DC a few times at RFK… fans were going nutty for women’s soccer even then. And Mia was just intense as ever.
Q: What team(s) do you follow, and what leagues are they in? How did you start following those teams?
A: I follow my JMU Dukes (I played there… Well was injured and wore a lot of ice packs there!), and both the U.S. men and women. I went to a few Magic Jack games before they went down. I grew up playing soccer (I was a GK) and idolized Brianna Scurry and Michelle Akers, and Tony Meola! I cheered my head off in ’99. There is just something about our U.S. national teams…. I love them.
Q: Now that you’re off all those ice packs, what do you do these days?
A: I teach K-5th grade PE. I get to play all day! Just picture the Energizer Bunny getting to dress up in different costumes every day and doing whatever she takes to get kids moving and you’ve got me. My goal is to make motor skill development and movement fun so it builds confidence that leads to a lifetime of fitness and wellness. I also am the school encourager and make sure that everyone and everything is celebrated (Lunch Lady Day, Custodian Day, Librarian Day, Random Acts of Kindness Week, School Breakfast Week, and Wacky Wednesdays are just a few of the things we celebrate!). Life is hard enough so I want school to be a fun and encouraging place where kids can learn to live a happy and healthy life.
Q: What about the game hooked you?
A: My intense passion for sports comes from my dad. Its a physical, mental, and emotional experience, so watching a game live is so intense and stressful. And exhausting. These players are busting their ass and I’m doing everything in my power to will them to victory… and will share their despair in defeat. When I was younger I never knew how normal folks could travel and watch their teams. I always thought I could never afford it, but then I checked into it, and poof I go to games all the time now!
Q: With whom in your life do you share soccer?
A: Again, my dad was my biggest fan and we shared a love of sports. He and my mom encouraged me to become the best player I could and we watched all the U.S. games on TV. I have a few friends that watch games with me now. But none of them paint their faces yet… I’m working on that!
Q: Have you traveled to any away games for your team? Where did you go and what was the experience like?
A: I saw the U.S. women in FL and CT on their celebration tour. It’s fantastic that these games are packed and that folks of all ages come out and support the team. And I went to Winnipeg and Vancouver for this year’s WWC. My friends bailed on me, but I still went. I bought tickets and booked my hotel through The American Outlaws so it was great to have events to go to and fans to sit with. These are my people. U.S. Soccer also put on events for fans in Vancouver. So great. I also have tickets for the semis and finals. (Heather answered these questions before the WWC semifinals; she’ll have to post a comment telling us how her time in Canada was! –K)
This journey to the WWC is part of my healing process. My dad died suddenly last October and I am devastated. I was already planning the trip and when he died. I knew going would help me find some happiness and be a good distraction. He would have been pacing watching the games and calling me after every goal and great save. But he also would have been stressed that his daughter was in a far off country by herself… I think about him all the time. I’m passionate for sports and soccer because of him.
Q: Do you have any personal soccer-related traditions? What are they?
A: Before games, I prepare my outfit. I wear American flag socks and shorts and an array of USA shirts. I have USA sunglasses and a bandana. I paint USA on both cheeks and my knuckles (KNUCKLES UP!). I hit American Outlaw events or viewing parties and get loud!
Q: What is the impact soccer has had on your life? What has it brought to you that you wouldn’t have had otherwise?
A: Soccer was my life for 20+ years. I played all growing up, went to Tony Diccico and Dan Gaspar GK camps, played year round in high school and played (again with a lot of ice bags…) in college. Being on a team and the commitment you make to one another is amazing. JMU just had their 25th anniversary of their soccer program and Coach Lombardo invited every player back. Almost every teammate I played with came back. We all keep in touch and support each other. The teammates, the friendships – that’s the best part. They are what I remember.
Q: If you could tell everyone in the world one thing about soccer, what would it be?
A: That GK’s are a strange breed. We see things differently and are a bit nuts. We have to be. So give Hope Solo a break! FOR THE LOVE!
I hope my kids are lucky enough to have such a great PE teacher! Movement is so important at a young age and can instill lifelong habits. Whether she’s on the move with her students or up to Canada to cheer on the USWNT, Heather has a great story and I’m so glad she let me share it. I can’t wait to share more of these wonderful women’s stories with you and I can’t wait to hear yours. Tweet me at @starrphishe, tweet at @WUnitedFC, or leave us a note in the contact box below and we would love to share your #WomenLoveSoccer story.