The Thorns announced today that midfielder Tobin Heath will join the Thorns development academy as assistant youth technical director this fall.
The newly-formed academy is one of 25 founding clubs in US Soccer’s Girls’ Development Academy. The young Thorns will compete in three age groups, and games will be scouted by US Soccer, with the program serving as a pipeline to the youth national teams.
Heath has spoken in the past about her desire to influence the culture of soccer development in the US, and notes in the Thorns’ press release that “the formation of the DA and the Thorns’ involvement has given me a unique opportunity to use my experiences to inspire the next generation of footballers.” Since coming to the Thorns in their inaugural 2013 season, Heath has begun living in Portland year round.
According to Thorns GM Gavin Wilkinson, “Tobin’s passion, technical ability, professionalism and leadership, coupled with her experiences at every level make her the ideal role model to positively influence the direction and growth of the Thorns Academy.”
You can read the full press release below:
PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland Thorns FC today announced that midfielder Tobin Heath has expanded her role with the club, assuming a position at the youth level with the club’s newly formed development academy set to launch in the fall of 2017 as the Thorns FC Assistant Youth Technical Director.
Heath, now in her fifth season with Thorns FC, joined the club during its inaugural NWSL campaign in 2013, helping guide Portland to the NWSL Championship.
“Having a player and personality like Tobin invested in the Thorns FC Academy is great for both the club and soccer in general,” said Gavin Wilkinson, general manager and president of soccer for Thorns FC. “Tobin’s passion, technical ability, professionalism and leadership, coupled with her experiences at every level make her the ideal role model to positively influence the direction and growth of the Thorns Academy.”
Working closely with youth sporting director Mike Smith and team head coaches, Heath, 28, will assist in all technical matters regarding the Thorns FC Academy, and will be responsible for helping with the annual technical planning of each academy team as well as aiding technical direction for player development and education within the academy and pre-academy age groups. She will play a critical role in helping to market and implement a Thorns FC statewide development program while taking an active role in helping to evaluate and enhance the quality of play in games, assess the clinical needs of players and work with club coaches. In addition, Heath will assist in advising college placement for all academy players and will work on earning her U.S. Soccer coaching licenses.
“I’m very excited to begin working with the Thorns FC development academy. The formation of the DA and the Thorns involvement has given me a unique opportunity to use my experiences to inspire the next generation of footballers,” said Heath. “First and foremost, my main priority at this point in my career is being the best player I can be, but my ambition is to change the culture of football in this country for the better, and that starts with our youth.”
In 2016, Heath led Portland to its first-ever NWSL Shield and earned NWSL Best XI honors, while establishing a new NWSL single-season record for assists (10). At the international level, Heath has made 131 appearances for the U.S. Women’s National Team, winning two Olympic gold medals (2008, 2012) and a Women’s World Cup title (2015).
One of the 25 founding clubs as part of the U.S. Soccer Girls’ Development Academy, Thorns FC will compete in three age groups: U-14/15, U-16/17 and U-18/19. Clubs will be expected to train a minimum of four times a week. The use of combined age groups will require clubs to form teams with a balanced roster of players from two distinct birth years. The games will be scouted by U.S. Soccer and the program will serve as the primary pathway to the youth national teams.