Tobin Heath Finds Her Purpose
US Women's Soccer star Tobin Heath opens up about the Olympics, her success on the field, and finding purpose through her beliefs.
BY: Chad Bonham
What’s the key principle that helps you stay emotionally and spiritually even-keeled?
Know your place. I know it kind of sounds a little backwards, but I just really think of God as being so incredible. The depth of who He is and His character is unfathomable and the fact that we can know Him just a little bit is so cool. He knows us inside and out. It’s remarkable in many ways. When I try to think about Him, I’m just in awe. That humbles me in any situation. When I need strength in hard times, I know I have a God that can move mountains. Or if I’m going through a time of success, I can just rejoice in the Lord and give glory to Him knowing that He’s given me the gifts to be able to accomplish what I have. Everything comes back to Him.
Tell me about the core group of believers on the U.S., team and how important that is to your spiritual stability.
I’m extremely blessed with my teammates. They’re such an encouragement in my life. I have people praying for me and I’m praying for them as well. I can lean back on them. They strengthen me during those times. But even with my non-believing teammates, there is a great amount of unity and I truly believe that’s God working. It’s really cool in team sports when you’re united around a belief or something you want to accomplish. Whenever you’re working towards something greater than yourself, it’s almost a selflessness that the Lord delights in when you’re serving your teammate or your friend or your sister in Christ. That’s just why I love team sports. It’s a great example of that selflessness that I think is really pleasing to God.
How much of your platform is used to encouraging young female athletes?
As the popularity of women’s soccer continues to grow, we just want to give that back to the sport and continue to inspire young girls to have something they can dream about, that they can be professional athletes. It’s possible for them. So we want to continue making those dreams possible while we’re living our dreams at the same time. It’s really neat when you become a role model. It’s also a lot of responsibility. But if you see it as a platform where you can pour into others for Jesus with love, that’s where I want to be. Becoming known or noticed in my sport isn’t what drives me to work hard and want to be the best I can be. It’s Jesus. That’s why I play. I play to glorify Him. I worship Him with the gifts I’ve been given. Through that, I just hope He can be glorified. I try to keep that as my motivation when I step out on the field every day whether it’s practice or a game. It’s to work as hard as I can in thankfulness for what He’s given me and hopefully some of that can come back to Him.
How do you navigate that fine line between thanking God for the gifts as opposed to thanking God for the success?
Heath: It’s not about that worldly outcome in terms of winning or losing. It’s about Him being known and not in a way that forces it upon other people but in a way that lets people know how He’s transformed my life and how He’s given me purpose and meaning and love and satisfaction. That’s the message of Jesus. It’s not a platform to impose on people. It’s a platform to love people. Our God’s going to be victorious. He’s the Creator of the universe. I’m just a vessel trying to do my part with what I’ve been given.
What do you remember most about your Olympic experience in 2008 and what are your thoughts on the 2012 Games in London?
The Olympics is a very special event because you get to represent your country along with all the other sports. One of my favorite things about soccer is how the art and the passion of the game somehow unites people and nations and classes and races. That’s something that comes out of the game and how it’s displayed and why people enjoy watching it and supporting it. Anytime you have an event like the Olympics or the World Cup, people get to enjoy it on such a huge scale. Obviously we’re looking forward to getting past this last World Cup and we’re really excited in our preparation to win gold in London. I think that’s the focus now. We have the team to do it.
Is standing on the podium as an Olympic gold medalist something you can describe?
I don’t think it’s something you can put into words. I don’t think it should be. The feeling that I was most shocked about was just seeing your country’s flag being raised. I was shocked by how moved I was by that. I’m usually a pretty mellow person, but when that happened, I thought that was pretty cool.