Wherever the soccer ball is bouncing, that’s where Heather Deuhlen is going.
Coaches from the Vancouver United Soccer Alliance watched the 14-year-old Heartbreaker from Washougal wreaking havoc on their game plans. They also noticed that she is one of the first players to congratulate them after a hard fought match. Teamwork, sportsmanship and a love for the game are traits coaches never forget. When it came time for them to vote for the VUSA Select Soccer Player of the Year, they chose Deuhlen.
“The thing about Heather is, she always wants to learn more about the game,” said Heartbreakers coach Zoe Williams. “She started as a back up goalkeeper, but she wanted to try different positions. Wherever we put her, she became a play maker. She’s just one of those kids that coaches dream about.
“We are excited to have her representing our team and our club,” Williams added. “Anything I did as a coach to help bring out her skill set and really grow to love the game of soccer is very rewarding. I feel like a proud parent.”
Deuhlen attended her first soccer camp at the age of 5. She didn’t quite warm up to the game at first, although it might have had something to do with the weather.
“I remember it being something like 110 degrees. It was just dreadful,” Deuhlen said. “Once I started watching my older sister playing soccer, it was so cool. I started kicking their practice balls around and juggling them. So, I kind of got back into soccer that way.”
Now, the game means more to her than anything.
“It’s fun being on a team, being with your friends and being physically active,” Deuhlen said. “I love everything about soccer.”
As she enjoys her final days as an eighth-grader at Liberty Middle School in Camas, Deuhlen will be going back to her hometown roots for high school. She is anxious to try out for the Washougal High School girls soccer team in the fall. In the meantime, Deuhlen made the jump to the premier level of soccer about a month ago. She is now playing for the U-15 Blue Timbers.
“Select is mostly about having fun, but Premier is more serious. You’re there to practice, and to get stronger and faster,” Deuhlen said. “I love the challenge. What you make of the team and the opportunity is what makes you grow.”
Deuhlen never forgets where she came from. She hopes to play soccer in college and continue on in the game as a coach, but she will be a Heartbreaker for life.
“It wasn’t about soccer as much as it was about being a family,” Deuhlen said. “No matter how terrified you were, there was always somebody around to hug you. They could never be disappointed in you for trying your hardest.”
Tina Deuhlen, Heather’s mother, believes the team aspect of soccer cannot be beaten.
“As a parent, it’s inspiring to see these girls work so hard together,” she said. “You watch them walk off the field together after a satisfying win or a heartbreaking loss, and it just takes your breath away. And the next day at practice, they just dig deeper and work harder together.”
Heather agrees. Her favorite part of the game is when the ball is moving fluidly from teammate to teammate.
“The high point of the game is when everybody is in sync. You make five passes in a row, and you know you’re going to a goal,” Deuhlen said. “It’s so fun to watch it, play it and be a part of something like that.”
Williams enjoyed watching Deuhlen mature as a soccer player, but knows she is just scratching the surface.
“It gives me chills to see these kids who have so much potential start to blossom without losing their love for the game,” Williams said. “Heather is one of those kinds of kids who held onto her athletic ability and got better each year.”
Williams retired from coaching soccer after 12 years. She learned the game from her father, Larry Peterson. When she could no longer play, she became a mentor to the youth with husband Michael by her side. Discussing soccer strategy over breakfast and dinner became a family routine.
“When you get to a point in your soccer career when you recognize you’re getting hurt a lot, or you have your own kids, but there’s still a certain place in your heart that wants to continue on in the game, that’s when you take that on to the next generation,” Williams said. “This has been life-changing for me and my family. Not only are you watching your kids, but you get to see so many other kids grow and live through that.”