By Bert Borgmann, Colorado High School Activities Association
Considering all the roles she’s played in the sport of soccer over the past three decades, April Heinrichs easily could be labeled, “Poster Child” of the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team.
At Littleton’s Heritage High School, where she was the best female soccer player in Colorado, she led the Eagles to four league titles (1979-82) and two state championships (1979 & 1981). She was All-Conference three times, All-State twice and All-America once in high school.
A three-time First Team All-America at the University of North Carolina, she led her team to three national titles and one runner-up finish. At graduation, the first UNC female player to have her number retired was the all-time NCAA scoring leader (87 goals in 90 games) after sparking the Tar Heels to an 85-3-2 record.
As captain of the U.S. squad that won the 1991 first-ever Women’s World Cup, she was part of the feared “triple-edged sword” which also included Michelle Akers and Carin Gabarra. One of Soccer’s most tenacious and competitive players, Heinrichs won U.S. Soccer’s Chevrolet Female Athlete-of-the-Year Award twice (1986 & 1989) and was Soccer America magazine’s Female Player of the 1980s. She also played for the professional Italian club team Prato.
The extensive impact of Heinrichs’ playing career was recognized in 1998 when she became the first female player inducted into the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame in Oneonta, NY. She also is a member of the CHSAA and Sportswomen of Colorado Halls of Fame, and in March 2005, the Sportswomen of Colorado organization honored her with its Trailblazer Award.
Mirroring Heinrichs playing success is a coaching career that began in the early ’90s. After brief stints at Princeton and William and Mary, she served as head coach at the University of Maryland from 1991-95 and was 1995 ACC Coach of the Year. From 1996 to 2000, she was head coach at the University of Virginia where she guided the Cavaliers to four NCAA berths. Overall, her collegiate coaching record is 116-73-15.
In mid-1995, Heinrichs also became a full-time assistant for the U.S. Women’s National Team and a member of the coaching staff that led the USA to its first-ever gold medal in the 1996 Olympics. A four-year term as head coach of the U-16 National Team followed and finally, on January 18, 2000, the Colorado Native was appointed Head Coach and Technical Director for the U.S. Women’s National Team – the first female head coach in the program’s 17-year history. She now oversees all the National youth teams, too.
The U.S. women came home from the 2000 Olympics with a disappointing silver medal, but Heinrichs quickly moved things forward again. In 2002, the American squad was 15-2-2 in international competition. She guided the team to major championships in China and Portugal in 2003 and capped off a magnificent four-year campaign with a 2004 Grand Slam of victories ending with another Olympic gold medal.
Now it’s on to another challenge! In February 2005, Heinrichs resigned as Women’s Team head coach and will serve simultaneously through 2005 as both USSF general consultant and National Youth Teams overseer. Pointing to the 1991 World Championships as her proudest soccer moment, Heinrichs notes that her passion for the game developed early and her playing skills came easily. Coaching is harder, she says, because talents and personalities must be mixed with each new team. Soccer is still her passion, though, so consulting will be just another extension of the love affair which began in Colorado nearly 30 years ago.
Build competition into the practice. It’s more fun and better prepares players for real soccer matches.