At times shy and reserved off the field, U.S. U-17 midfielder Tobin Heath, who hails from Basking Ridge, N.J., has flash and savvy when she steps between the white lines. While in training camp at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., as her team prepares to face Germany twice, she agreed to come out of her shell for a few minutes and answer 11 far reaching and insightful questions from ussoccer.com, touching on why Jersey girls are tough, how her little brother still hasn’t beaten her in basketball and why she will not be volunteering for future interviews.
ussoccer.com: It seems that New Jersey is becoming the second California as far as producing quality female players. Why is that?
Tobin Heath: “The training environment in New Jersey is great. There are a lot of very competitive players and teams all over the state. We don’t get to play and train as much as the players in California because of the weather, but we make up for it by being just a little bit tougher. That’s what playing in the cold, rain, mud and snow does for a girl.”
ussoccer.com:Speaking of New Jersey, current U.S. Women’s National Team player Heather O’Reilly (East Brunswick) calls you “her girl” and says you’re a “little baller.” How do you know Heather and has she been a roll model to you?
TH: “She played for the club I play for - PDA - Player Development Academy. She’s four years older than me, but I grew up looking up to her and playing against when we played the older teams. We trained a lot together when she was in high school and it was really cool seeing her on TV in the Olympics. I’m definitely not as fast as her, but her work rate and intensity are something I aspire to emulate.”
ussoccer.com: You played against some youth national teams last year on trips to Ireland and Brazil with the U.S. U-16s. Can you talk about the difference between playing a club or high school match and facing a team like Germany?
TH: “Definitely the gamesmanship is so different. You rarely see that kind of stuff in the U.S. and I learned a lot from that. At the international level, you see players waste time by kicking the ball away, faking injuries, grabbing our shirts. It’s stuff that we really find annoying, but it’s just part of the international game, so we not only have to get used to it, but incorporate part of that into our game as well. Of course, we don’t fake injuries, though. Especially girls from Jersey.”
ussoccer.com: You’ve watched a lot of women’s national team games. Is there one player you like to model your game after?
TH: “I would want to be as much of a Kristine Lilly-type of player as possible. I want to be creative, be able to take players on one-v-one and get up and down the field all game. She’s ridiculous. I’m not left-footed like her, but I work really hard to try to be able to use both feet.”
ussoccer.com: We hear you love to play a bunch of sports and are quite the pickup basketball player in your backyard. Is it true that you take no mercy on your 10-year-old brother in backyard hoops?
TH: “I love to goof around with him and make him look stupid. I’m so much taller than him that he just can’t stop me. I can’t let my little brother win, you know? Although I know the day will come when he’s going to get me back. It’s already starting to happen. He’s pretty athletic and quick, but he’s not as competitive as I am. Jeffrey, when I get back home after this camp, you’re going down again!”
ussoccer.com: Earlier in the week, we ran a feature on your U-17 teammate Carolyn Blank. She confessed that she is probably the goofiest player on the team. Is this true?
TH: “Definitely the goofiest player, but she keeps people laughing. There is never a dull moment with her around and you always need someone like her on a team. She always has a story, some of which I would recommend she does not tell again.”
ussoccer.com: You have to admit that Nike stocks the youth women’s teams with gear. What is you’re the favorite piece of U.S. Soccer Nike gear that you have been issued on the national team?
TH: “I’d have to say my Total 90s firm ground molded cleats. They are just plain bad. They are the nicest cleats I have ever owned. They are stylish, but very comfortable. They just work for me. I have blue and gray, white and gold and maroon and silver. I like the blue ones best. I’m going to wear those against Germany.”
ussoccer.com: You’ve been in the Women’s Youth National Team programs for three years now. Obviously, you girls spend a lot of time away from home. How do you deal with that?
TH: “It’s definitely a lot of fun being away from home, but you do miss a lot of social things being away from school and stuff. But that’s a choice we all make and it’s one I’ll never regret. I actually like missing school, but I hope my teachers are not reading this. I know I might change my tune when I get to college, but right now I’m able to keep up. Being with this team creates almost like a family away from home, so that helps being on the road so much.”
ussoccer.com: What are your soccer goals?
TH: “Probably the same as any other girl wants, to make the full team and play in a Women’s World Cup or Olympics. I’m just a competitive person and I don’t like to lose. To be able to go into an environment like a world championship, with all that pressure and with everything on the line, and be able to excel, well that’s just a great challenge. My more realistic goal is try to make the next U-20 world championship team in Russia. That seems like so far away, so I take things one day at a time.”
ussoccer.com: So, how’s the process of choosing a college going?
TH: “Well, I actually have verbally committed to UNC even though I’m just a junior. The recruiting process is just getting crazier and crazier and girls are committing earlier and earlier. I guess I’m a part of that trend. I felt like I’d done my research, knew where I wanted to go and just felt like I could make decision. With that pressure off, I’m hoping I can enjoy my last two years of high school just a bit more.”
ussoccer.com: Last question. Are you glad this is the last question?
TH: “Very. I couldn’t be happier. Sometimes I can be kind of shy with this kind of stuff so it’s tough answering so many questions.”