Former Professional Player Nate Hetherington Inspires Youth Soccer Players
For eight years Nate Hetherington patrolled the midfield as a professional, playing both indoor and outdoor soccer with teams like the San Diego Sockers, San Diego Flash and Atlanta Silverbacks. He was team captain the majority of his career and has earned a number of awards, including Most Valuable Player, Fan Favorite, and Playmaker of the Year, to name just a few. Like most professional soccer players, his soccer career began, as he says, “as soon as I could walk.”
A homegrown Cal South player, Hetherington started competitive soccer at age 7 with San Diego Surf SC and then moved on to Nomads where he came under the tutelage of Brian McManus and Derek Armstrong. He also played at San Dieguito High School and UC San Diego, where he tallied 31 points in 1996.
Today Hetherington is Assistant Director of Coaching with Rancho Santa Fe Attack and coaches four youth soccer teams; BU8 Green, BU13 Premier, GU15 Elite and GU17 Elite teams. He is a passionately dedicated coach who has spent over a decade with RSF Attack, following stints with Cardiff FC and Encinitas Express.
SoccerNation News knew our readers wanted to get to know more about Nate Hetherington, his views on coaching, and what he wants players to learn….
Diane Scavuzzo: Why do you coach?
Nate Hetherington: I coach because I have enjoyed soccer from a very young age and I want to give back to a game that has given me so much.
Diane Scavuzzo: What do you like best about coaching and what inspires you?
Nate Hetherington: My inspiration comes from the players. To see them smile with their teammates as they enjoy trainings and games. To watch them come together for a common goal in good times and especially hard times. To see the players reach goals that they once thought were unattainable.
Diane Scavuzzo: When and why did you join your current club?
Nate Hetherington: I have been at RSF Attack for 14 years, and I truly believe in what the club stands for and its philosophy. I am so very lucky to be a part of an organization that looks out for the best interest for each individual player.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is most challenging about coaching youth soccer players?
Nate Hetherington: Trying to find the balance of allowing kids to be kids and having players dedicate themselves to the game and their teammates.
Diane Scavuzzo: What do you see as the responsibility of a youth soccer coach in America?
Nate Hetherington: A coach needs to be a positive role model and teach life lessons through the game.
Diane Scavuzzo: Looking ahead five years, what would you like the future of youth soccer to look like?
Nate Hetherington: Ideally I would like to see referees look after the health and safety of the players, coaches sit down and guide their teams with positive instruction, and most importantly parents relax on the sideline just enjoying the show and allowing the players to be creative and confident.
Diane Scavuzzo: Do you believe it is important for youth players to have the opportunity to travel and play internationally?
Nate Hetherington: I have always said that we as coaches need to make it about the overall experience of a soccer player.
I have taken teams to Europe on many occasions, and the memories are priceless. This experience allows the players to see the passion in countries from all over the world.
Diane Scavuzzo: As a youth player, when did you first start kicking a soccer ball?
Nate Hetherington: I enjoyed the game as soon as I could walk and started playing competitively at the age of 7.
Diane Scavuzzo: What are some of your best memories as a youth?
Nate Hetherington: I remember going to England, Ireland and Scotland at the ages of 12 and 16 and competing against the top professional youth teams. I also played in Dallas Cup against teams from all over the world and won Cal South State Cup Championships seven years in a row.
Diane Scavuzzo: Everyone always looks for the Holy Grail of player development – is there one?
Nate Hetherington: It is such a broad term that can be dissected in all areas of the game. I believe it is our responsibility to develop in stages with the players’ mental comprehension as the focus.
For instance, at the younger age we allow them to be free and focus on developing their technical skills. As they get older we start to focus on the tactical and psychological parts of the game.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is the most important piece of advice you could share with the player who dreams of going pro?
Nate Hetherington: You need to control the things you have control over. Have a good work ethic, communicate in a positive way with your teammates, and have confidence in your ability at all times.
Diane Scavuzzo: Can you share a little about your playing career?
Nate Hetherington: I was a midfield player who was lucky enough to play professionally for eight years. I was a leader who was hard worker and had a good understanding of the game due to my youth and professional coaches – a special thank you to Derek Armstrong and Brian McManus.
I was average technically, but due to my passion during training and desire to understand the game tactically I made my dream of playing professionally a reality. So all you players, listen to your coaches and hope they are giving you the right information.
Diane Scavuzzo: What is the value of youth soccer – and other team sports – for a kid growing up?
Nate Hetherington: It’s priceless.
The experience teaches a player how to work with others based on individual strengths that come together to form a team. Players learn to win and lose with good sportsmanship. It strengthens confidence, communication skills, and develops lifelong habits for good health and happiness.