Heather Dyche has lived and breathed soccer for as long as she can remember, and after years of dedication to the field she was elected to the Board of Directors for the United Soccer Coaches, creating another avenue for her to share her passion with others.
According to the United Soccer Coaches' website, the organization's goals are "to promote the game of soccer, generate greater publicity for the sport and improve teaching of the game through soccer clinics as well as research and evaluation of coaching of the sport."
Dyche said the group oversees collegiate soccer, youth soccer and soccer for people with disabilities, but their focus on advocacy and trying to help people sets them apart from other organizations.
"The coolest part about them is that their sole purpose is to enhance and make the game more accessible for everybody," Dyche said. "I think it's important when the game has given you what it's given me that you find ways to give back, and to me United Soccer Coaches is the best way to do that."
Whether it was playing professionally in Norway or working as a full-time games analyst for the U.S. women's national team, Dyche said she didn't think a month in her life has gone by without hitting the pitch.
But of the expansive list of positions Dyche has held over her career, she stressed that coaching soccer has been her favorite.
Dyche continues to give back to the sport that gave her so much by serving as the head coach of the women's soccer program at the University of New Mexico. Dyche has held positions all over the world but spent the past seven years coaching in her home state of New Mexico.
During her tenure as head coach, the team has seen both athletic and academic success. UNM Athletics reported that Dyche led the 2018 team to a program record for goals scored (45) and coached 10 All-Mountain West selections. For three consecutive years, the team has also received the Team Academic Award from the United Soccer Coaches based on GPA.
Dyche said the reason her teams do so well academically is twofold: the coaching staff recruiting good students and "making sure (the players) put the time, energy and investment into it, because if you leave here and win a soccer championship but don't have a degree, you've wasted your time."
The ability of the soccer team to practice and play due to COVID-19 restrictions remained nebulous until just over a month ago. On Jan. 19, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham's office announced that "all athletic departments in New Mexico can finally practice here in the state ... Teams can travel out of state and compete without having to quarantine," according to KOAT.
Dyche said the uncertainty in the months prior to that announcement was "a real energy sucker," but the team has been energized by the new order and feels fortunate that they still have the ability to play.
She pointed out that the difficult situation wrought by the pandemic has made it important to "have balance, invest in different things and find different things to do so you don't become completely obsessed with soccer — which can be easy to do."
The UNM women's soccer team will open their season on the road playing one of their biggest rivals, the Colorado State Rams, on Mar. 5.
Shelby Kleinhans is a beat reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @BirdsNotReal99