University of New Mexico Women's Soccer Coach Heather Dyche just crossed another threshold in her climb to national soccer prominence.
She has been with the school for the past five years and created many opportunities for her team, going 55-37-10 during her tenure and taking a share of the 2018 regular season conference title.
It’s a lengthy résumé, but many Lobo fans and people in general may not be entirely up to speed on what she does outside of the school.
After about a decade coaching at youth national team levels, the next step in Dyche’s career trajectory will take her to the biggest stage of her professional life thus far — next month, she’ll be coaching in World Cup qualifiers.
Recently, Dyche received a new position with the U.S. Under-20 Women’s National Team as an assistant coach alongside new Head Coach Laura Harvey. Harvey, who was appointed to the position on Jan. 3, most recently spent seven seasons as a head coach in the National Women’s Soccer League and helped to grow the women’s game in England after a brief playing career in that country.
Now, the U-20 team is aiming for a berth in the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup. Qualifying will take place from Feb. 15 to March 1 in a tournament in the Dominican Republic, and Dyche said the new challenge will be “unique” for her.
“I think I’ve been with every age group at some point, but I’ve never had the chance to be on a World Cup roster,” she said. “So this one is a little bit more — the pressure is a little bit higher.”
Before taking the U-20 job, Dyche was a part of coaching staffs for youth national teams for the past ten years — specifically the U-15 and U-14 girls’ team — in addition to assistant roles in various other youth age groups.
Although the Albuquerque native and Eldorado High School graduate said UNM is her “absolute passion,” according to her there’s a clear distinction between being an assistant coach for national teams and a head coach for the Lobos.
“It’s a different pressure, because at UNM you are the head coach and your job is to win,” Dyche said. “When you’re an assistant coach, your job is really to make sure that you’re bridging the gap between player development and coaches’ decisions and making sure that everything is on the same page.”
The process of practicing and putting these national teams together is very different than most people would think. Most of the women on the U-20 team are in college, so the camps and team activities try and work around soccer season and classes.
“You get to go to a camp, and then they all go back to their colleges. You don’t ever really feel like it’s a team — you’re just putting players together to win games,” Dyche said.
But the important thing to realize is that “these national players are the best in the country at what they do, so the level of player in that environment is the best in the country,” she added. “That part is really fun, because it’s challenging.”
She also touched on how she values the learning opportunities in every coaching position she has been in — especially as an assistant.
“When I get to be around other head coaches, I get to really pick up on a lot of their ideas,” Dyche said. “That part is something I really value.”
Typically in that position, Dyche mainly focuses her role on game analysis, tactical work and player management. She said that was her role during this past camp and is assuming that’s what her position will be again with the U-20s.
Alongside her role and responsibilities, Dyche also has some goals and ambitions she set for herself.
“I really just want to be better,” she said. “I want to be a better coach, and I want to know more. I want to be a better teacher to my players. I want to know more about the game and how to implement that.”
Learning and experiencing more about what she’s passionate about is something that Dyche values heavily. Ultimately, she said her new coaching experiences will give her more opportunities to create better and higher levels of play for her Lobo women’s teams for many more years at the UNM Soccer Complex.
“I think — especially with soccer, but (in) every teaching profession — you have to make sure that you know what the highest level is. If not, then you’re not teaching at the highest level,” Dyche said. “I just always want to be better. And I think these opportunities that I get to bring back to New Mexico, hopefully, will lift the level of our program.”
Angelina Pompeo is a sports reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @PompeoAngelina