Oct. 25, 2001
If you don’t live life on the edge you can’t see the view. That is how Seminole senior Heather Dyche lives her life. It’s a personal philosophy that has come through a maturation process that involved 11 surgeries, a change in schools, a redshirt season, a lot of time away from her family and very little playing time before her ‘second’ senior year and despite all the adversity, she wouldn’t change a thing.
“I think I have grown up so much,” said Heather. “As a freshman and sophomore I thought soccer was everything. Looking back on it now, I don’t think I would change anything if I could. I would have loved to play more but the friendships that I have made and the relationships I have with these girls are things I would never change. Playing time is insignificant compared to that and I would never have felt that way my freshman year.”
While her outlook on the game she loves and on her life has come a long way since she was a freshman, it isn’t the only thing that has grown since she began her career at the University of Nebraska. Since coming to Tallahassee from Albuquerque, NM the distance between Heather and her family has grown to almost 1500 miles and that hasn’t been easy for the central defender.
“It is hard being so far away from home,” said Heather. “I have missed out on so much. I have missed seeing my little brother grow up and watching his games in high school. I missed his homecoming and if I hadn’t of redshirted I would have been home to see all of that.
“Marte and Maren (Vik Edvardsen) have been an inspiration to me though. Talk about being far from home. When I think about how far away I am from my family, I just think about how far they have come and their family being back in Norway.”
While her teammates have helped her deal with the family she misses, there is nothing they could do to help Heather with the other thing she missed about living out west, the mountains.
“I grew up in the mountains so I always went skiing, mountain biking, snowboarding and all that good stuff,” she recalls. “I even raced mountain bikes for a couple of years in high school. I would like to go back to the west, maybe Colorado or New Mexico. Definitely somewhere near the mountains. I loved where I grew up but what I have realized since being away is that you never really appreciate what you have until its not there anymore.”
Considering all those factors it might be hard to understand why Heather came to Florida State from the University of Nebraska. The Cornhuskers are a perennial national power in women’s soccer and Florida State had just wrapped up a 7-11-3 season in 1997. She was obviously moving even further away from her family and Florida’s capitol isn’t exactly known for its snowboarding. But like so many of those who have moved to Florida, Heather came for the weather.
“I wanted to go somewhere warm,” she said. “I was playing behind a sophomore All-American at Nebraska and I wouldn’t have had the chance to get any playing time for a while. It was freezing cold there and the town was very conservative and I just couldn’t see myself being happy for four years.
“I didn’t necessarily think I had a much better opportunity to play at Florida State but I knew I had a better chance and I knew it wouldn’t be freezing cold either. I wanted to go to another big athletic program and FSU was building their program and that appealed to me.”
Transferring can sometimes be a tough process though. You have to go through things all over again that you thought you were done with after your freshman season. What made things a little easier for Heather was the fact she came to FSU with Cornhusker teammate Sarah Deacon who was a member of Heather’s first senior class.
“Your first year is always hard whether you are a freshman or you transfer,” Heather recalls. “You don’t know anybody and you have to find your niche on the team. Sarah (Deacon) and I transferred from Nebraska together so that was helpful.
“It wasn’t a big deal to me that I was transferring from one of soccer’s perennial powers to a school that hadn’t been successful in the past. There are more significant factors than just soccer when choosing a school. It has been more fun being here no matter what happened in the sense of wins and losses. When you choose a school you have to keep in mind that you want a good environment to live in and to make friends in. When things weren’t going well for our program on the field, things were great elsewhere like with all the friendships I made.”
Just after Heather seemed to be starting her soccer career and her collegiate life on the right foot after going through some early challenges it was her left foot, and ankles, that became a problem.
In 1998, Heather appeared in 11 matches for the Seminoles and started three games. She had begun to establish some lasting friendships and things seemed to be coming together for her. She came into her junior year in great shape and had worked out all summer. She was looking forward to a big turn-around since the star player in high school had only started three games her sophomore year. She developed a small fracture that wasn’t supposed to stop her from playing and she stepped on the field for opening day in 1999 against the defending National Champion Florida Gators full of hope.
“Five minutes into the season-opener at Florida, I broke my ankle,” said Heather. “That was very frustrating. Then I had the opportunity to play at the end of the season if I wanted to but I couldn’t because the screw that was inserted into my foot where I had the fracture wasn’t long enough. I got back in time to play in the spring but then I broke it again. After that injury, I was told that I wouldn’t ever play again. It was supposed to be too difficult to do the amount of running that soccer required. It wasn’t a lot of fun.”
Heather spent that year rehabbing and logging hours upon hours in the training room. She took on the role of team leader on the sideline rather than on the field and it was a difficult transition for her.
“I thought about quitting plenty of times,” Heather recalls. “Honestly, most seasons I didn’t even come in expecting significant playing time but I just didn’t want to give up. Just being a member of this team is something special so I didn’t quit. There were definitely times when I wondered if it was all worth it though.
“It was so difficult to sit on the sidelines and watch your friends and teammates play. You have to step out of the role of athlete into more of a coach’s role. It is a much more distant role.”
While spending her entire redshirt sophomore season working extremely hard rehabbing to get back out on the field, something interesting happened. Heather began to notice a change in the way she viewed her soccer career and, for that matter, her life.
“The surgeries have played a huge role on how I look at everything in my life,” Said Heather. “It put everything in perspective. I realized it’s not the end of the world if you can’t play soccer as long as you are healthy and not in pain. It made me appreciate every moment I am on the field and made me appreciate just being able to run. I even can appreciate practice now.”
Heather learned to value things she hadn’t valued before. Growing up a competitor made it difficult for her to realize that wins and loses aren’t everything.
“I am not any less competitive now than I was before but I just have a different perspective on things,” said Heather. “I value the experience now not just the results. I value being on the field with my teammates. Wins and losses are important but I now know they aren’t everything.”
That is a difficult thing to pass onto younger players who think the exact way Heather used to think when she began her career. As a team captain, she would love to be able to share that with her younger teammates but she knows better.
“I don’t think you can tell younger players to be grateful for what they have because you won’t get the message unless you live through it,” said Heather. “You dream your whole life of playing for a top 20 team and battling teams like North Carolina in front of 1,900 people. That is something that is so special. If you take that for granted, you will regret your time here. You have to look past the daily practices and fitness because that’s not what you are going to remember five or ten years from now. You are going to remember all of the good times you’ve had.”
Luckily for Heather, her injuries allowed her to have twice as many of those good times that she’ll always remember.
One of the most difficult things people don’t often realize about taking a redshirt is that you are no longer a member of your class anymore. The friends Heather made not only through soccer but through classes and the common experiences of going through things with people in your same class aren’t there anymore. You now become a member of the class behind you and it is a difficult process but Heather handled it like everything else. She found the positives.
“Transferring in made taking a redshirt a little easier actually because I came in with the class that was a year behind me but actually ended up being the senior class I am associated with,” explains Heather. “It was difficult during senior night last year considering many of those seniors were my closest friends. It would have been nice to go through all of the senior activities with them but I am also very close with this year’s seniors. ”
In many ways that makes this season Heather’s second senior year and she is making the most if it both on and off of the field. Many of her closest friends graduated last season but she has been able to form just as tight of a bond with her new senior class and in a sense has had the best of both worlds.
“It has been a huge positive to, in a sense be a part of two separate senior classes,” said Heather. “I have become so close to the girls that are graduating this year and many of my best friends were in last year’s senior class so it has been a blessing in disguise. My injury gave me an extra year with a great group of people.”
On the field, Heather is in the midst of a storybook ending to a challenging career. After making her way back from three surgeries on her foot and four surgeries on each ankle, Heather was voted a team captain by her teammates before the start of the season and has become the anchor of the 17th-ranked Seminoles’ defense. Heather has started 14 of 15 games this year and has recorded a goal and the first four assists of her FSU career. She is a key part of Florida State’s second straight 10-win campaign and her team has its sights et on a second consecutive NCAA bid.
“There is such a huge difference in this program now,” said Heather. “Getting into the NCAA Tournament is something we expect as a team now and that is something I hadn’t experienced since I transferred from Nebraska. At Nebraska, we never worried about getting in we just worried about where we would be seeded. We aren’t quite at that point here yet but we have put a couple of consistent years together and we are heading in that direction. It will be great to leave here on such a positive note.
“It is incredible to be a part of what has happened to this program over the last two seasons. We knew that people wanted to label what we did last year as a fluke. We come into 2001 and lost a great senior class and we don’t have Emma (Breland) back so things could have easily gone down hill. We have stuck together through so many injuries and just kept believing in each other and the program. We’ve had to fight a little more but that has made it even more rewarding.”
All of that success has been nice but not even scoring the game-winner in FSU’s first-ever win over the University of Florida could compare to the friendships Heather has made at Florida State.
“I get the most pleasure from just being on the field with this group of players,” she said. “I value the opportunity coach Baker gave me to play and the support he has given me. That’s what is satisfying. Everything has come together this year.
“There is something indescribable about being a part of a team. A lot of it has to do with having a constant network of friends that I know I will be in touch with for the rest of my life, especially my two senior classes. I wasn’t willing to give up on that and at some point that became more important than playing.”
Despite how well her second senior season has unfolded, this senior knows that it isn’t over yet. As much as she has learned to value playing and being a part of the Seminole team, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have goals she still wants to accomplish on the field.
“I couldn’t of asked for anymore from my final season but it’s not over yet either,” she said. “We have more conference battles left and improving on our ACC record is a big goal. If we can get to four or five wins after getting one or two a year over the history of the program that would be huge.”
Whatever happens to Heather and the Seminoles down the stretch, nothing will ever take away every experience she has gone through or the lifelong friendships she has made.
“The biggest thing I will carry with me are my friendships,” said Heather. “Those even override the soccer. Soccer provided me those opportunities and they will last forever but so will my relationships with my teammates and that is what is really important.”