11 Questions with Tobin Heath
THE ALGARVE, Portugal (Feb. 28, 2007) - Numerous young players who have ascended into the National Team before their 20th birthday have gone on to have important international careers. Now, 19-year-old Tobin Heath is looking to make her mark. Having earned her first caps at the Four Nations Tournament in China last January, she is looking for more at the 2008 Algarve Cup in Portugal. As a player on the U.S. U-16, U-17 and U-20 National Teams, Heath was an avid reader of ussoccer.com. Today, it’s still her home page, and now she gets her own Q&A. Ussoccer.com sat down on a sunny afternoon in the Algarve with the vivacious Heath to chat about her time with the U.S. U-20s, her unique dribbling style and if she’s ever met anyone else named Tobin.
ussoccer.com: This is your second trip with the full Women’s National Team. How have you found Portugal so far?
Tobin Heath: “Portugal is a beautiful country. The people are very nice and welcoming. So far the weather has been awesome, no clouds and blue skies. We got to go the beach the first day and put our feet in the water, so that was a real nice way to start the trip.”
ussoccer.com: At the 2006 U-20 Women’s World Championship in Russia, you were one of the last players chosen to the roster, but as it turned out, you were one of the top performers on the team. Do you think you’d be here with the WNT now without that experience?
TH: “I would say probably not, just because the whole process with making the U-20 team has been similar to this process, in trying to make tournaments rosters and such. The feeling of having to perform your best each camp is something that has been very valuable in my development as a player. In this environment, you learn how to compete every minute in every practice. While it’s definitely mentally and physically tough, you can’t help but improve by playing with these players.”
ussoccer.com: You have shown to be a pretty versatile player in just a short time for the National Team. Do you like playing defender, midfielder or forward best?
TH: “I like playing midfielder or forward the best. I like being in the attacking third and my favorite thing is taking players on, so I want to be near the goal to be able to create or score goals. But I think playing defender has helped take my game to a different level, because I’m the first to admit that I didn’t focus much on defense in the past until I was put in the back. Then, it’s like focus or else, so it has been really good getting to play a bunch of positions. No matter where I am on the field, I enjoy myself, though. With Pia, the backs are encouraged to attack so that has been really fun as well.”
ussoccer.com: In your first-ever cap, playing left back, you nut-megged a Canadian defender on your first touches in a full WNT uniform. What the heck?
TH: “I kind of wanted to make good first impression, but if I had gotten stripped in the back, that probably wouldn’t have been the best way to do it. Honestly, it just happened. I don’t really think about that stuff, it just comes out. It’s just me having fun.”
ussoccer.com: During the last training camp in California, you went surfing for the first time…then went a bought a surfboard. We’re assuming you enjoyed yourself out there in SoCal ocean?
TH: “I went surfing for the first time in Hermosa Beach. The waves actually got pretty big, for me at least, they were like four-to-six feet, and I was thankful that Abby Wambach supplied me with everything I needed and gave me a quick lesson. It was just a blast being out there in the water for a few hours. I was getting crushed by waves and enjoying every minute of it. I stood up once and I have to admit that night, I had surfing dreams. It was just like Blue Crush. I had always heard what a rush surfing was and I think I am hooked. I know I won’t have much chance to surf with all the soccer and travel and college, but the board is in Rhode Island where my family goes for the summer waiting for my return.”
ussoccer.com: You have a unique playing style in the women’s game in that you are constantly looking to take players on with a slashing dribbles. How did you develop that?
TH: “I think I developed it as a young age. I was always encouraged to be creative with the ball at my feet. I had coaches that supported me in giving me the freedom to dribble and be creative with the ball, and it’s sad that a lot of kids don’t find themselves in that environment when they are young. It’s always been fun for me and now it’s just a natural part of my game.”
ussoccer.com: You are the youngest player on the Algarve Cup roster at 19. How has it been getting to know the older players?
TH: “It’s been a lot fun getting to know the older players. I’ve found that age doesn’t really matter when we are all together talking and having fun, but when I go back to school, it’s really different just being around people my own age. I have noticed that I get kind of quiet when everyone starts talking about decorating their houses and hanging out with their husbands and kids, but I can talk about my dorm room. It seems that all of the older veterans still have that young streak in them. They have a lot of fun. I think soccer keeps people young.”
ussoccer.com: You have a unique first name. Tell us the story behind your parents naming you Tobin?
TH: “My great, great grandmother’s last name was Tobin, so it’s a family name. I have never met another girl named Tobin, but apparently there is a girl at UNC who is also named Tobin. She was in my roommate’s political science class. I guess, a bunch of people have come up to her and asked her if she was the soccer player, but she was like, ‘no, I’m the other Tobin.’ I really need to meet that girl soon.”
ussoccer.com: You haven’t scored a lot of goals for UNC. Is that something you really want to work on in college and for the WNT?
TH: “Yeah, it’s something I’ve been focused on for a while now. I just feel that I need to be more productive with that part of my game. It’s a matter of me becoming more focused on simplifying my game and focusing on being good around the goal. I think I have a lot of the skills necessary to get into scoring positions, so now it’s a matter of getting it done inside the box. I know that’s one of the hardest parts of the game and the people that can do it consistently are the most famous players in the world.”
ussoccer.com: You were voted “Best Tan” by your teammates on the U-20s. Is that a title you are hoping to keep here with the full team?
TH: “I would like to, but there is some great skin on this team. Carli (Lloyd) is pretty tan, so is Tasha Kai, but she has an advantage because she gets that Hawaiian sun. I think I might have to relinquish my title.”
ussoccer.com: To make an Olympic qualifying roster at age 19, and perhaps an Olympic Team, are lofty goals for someone so young, although Heather O’Reilly did it four years ago. Is it intimidating to think about? Or just an exciting opportunity?
TH: “Right now, I’m just taking it one training session at a time. I’m so thankful to be where I am right now and if I can continue to contribute to this team’s success that would be awesome. If I end up not making those teams, I’ll take what I’ve learned here and keep at it. I think the keys are never to take anything for granted, just have as much fun as you can, and keep listening to the coaches and older players and watching how they do things. Hopefully, if I stay on that path, things will work out for the best.”