“With the first pick in the second annual WPS draft, the Atlanta Beat select…Tobin Heath!”
As those words were said six months ago, pandemonium broke loose in the draft room in Philadelphia. Speculation had surrounded the Atlanta Beat and the number one pick they held. Unlike many professional sports teams, the Beat wouldn’t answer the most frequently asked question – “Who are you going to take number one?”
Heath said it best, standing onstage just after her name had been announced.
“I had heard a lot of things,” she said of the speculation leading up to the draft. “But I guess you don’t really know until you’re standing right here.” With a grin she added, “I’m obviously thrilled be a Georgia Peach as Kelley O’Hara would say.”
The months leading up to that moment in Philadelphia were just a little bit insane. The University of North Carolina product spent time with the National team in October as they prepared to take on Germany overseas. Heath was the only collegiate player on the 18-woman roster which meant even more travelling.
A stomach bug forced the midfielder to miss the match with Germany, where she was slated to start in Team USA’s midfield. She returned to the States and jumped straight back into her collegiate season. North Carolina won the ACC title game and made their run through the NCAA tournament, defeating a previously undefeated Stanford for the title.
She was also named to Team USA’s training camp that was scheduled to start on Dec. 5, but decided to miss the camp as she needed a break after a year of almost non-stop competition.
As for life between the ‘Heels December 6th NCAA title win and the WPS draft on January 15th?
“During that time I think it was just a period of figuring out where I was going. Obviously the anticipation of starting to play professionally. I was really excited,” Heath mused. “I was just curious, I guess, to see where I would end up.”
Playing soccer was now her job. It was different than what it had been in college, when it had been about playing for your school and wanting to do well. Heath was looking forward to the transition she’d be making as a player going from being a collegiate athlete to playing in the professional ranks.
“I was just really looking forward to this new experience and really making it part of my job and taking it more seriously,” Heath explained. “So yeah, I think just the transition, obviously, was going to be different for me, but I was excited for the challenge.”
The Atlanta Beat came into the 2010 season with high expectations for their inaugural year in WPS. Their roster was slowly coming together as the January draft approached and after selecting Heath, the expectations could only get higher. Heath had her own expectations and hopes to contribute to the expansion side.
“It’s exciting, because you can only really go up from having nothing. So I hope to contribute just overall in the midfield. Great work, an entertaining style, distribution, and creating a rhythm for the team.”
Heath suffered a right ankle sprain in the third game of the season when the team travelled to the Bay Area and was slated to only miss 4-6 weeks. At the time of this interview, it had been about four weeks since the injury had occurred.
As of mid-May, Atlanta was still winless and Heath was hoping to be back on the field to help her team make a push towards the playoffs. Or, for starters, to begin to rack up some wins.
“I always have high expectations for all of the teams I play on so I’m expecting our team to start winning a few games and hopefully make it to the play-offs,” Heath said on May 18th.
Atlanta won their first match of the season on June 19, 2010 three weeks after Heath was placed on the season-ending injury list (May 28).
Photo Courtsey of Laine Schmid