VANCOUVER, BC – Tommy Heinemann sees the game from a different angle than most.
Part of that has to do with his height – at 6-foot-4, there aren’t many players in the league who compare in stature. In recent years, the hulking striker has also developed a more analytical eye for the game – a coach’s eye, if you will.
As a result of a knee injury, Heinemann appeared in just one Major League Soccer match with Columbus Crew last season. But he was still involved with the club throughout the season – as a guest coach with their academy system.
“I realized at that point that this is something I want to do when my playing career is finished,” Heinemann told whitecapsfc.com.
The St. Louis, Missouri native has no intention of hanging up his boots any time soon, but he’s already getting a head start on his coaching career.
In his spare time, Heinemann has been helping out with the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds men’s soccer team as an assistant coach. On average, he drops in a couple times a week to work with the team’s strikers and attacking-minded players.
“It’s really been a good relationship and it’s been very convenient because we train out here,” Heinemann said. “UBC is a top program. To be able to get some coaching experience at a top program under a top coach is a very unique and special opportunity for me. I’m excited and I’ve enjoyed working with the guys.”
The partnership began back in August when Heinemann approached Thunderbirds head coach Mike Mosher with the idea. From Mosher’s perspective, it was a win-win situation.
“Tommy has shown some good insight and small, important details to the players and he has a very nice delivery and demeanour,” Mosher told whitecapsfc.com. “I think it is a good situation as we can provide Tommy an opportunity to gain some coaching experience with quality student athletes, which should help him down the road when his playing days are done, but of course our guys benefit in having another voice and one that is currently playing at that next level of play.”
Coaching has always been one of Heinemann’s passions. At the age of 11, he even started up a soccer camp with the hopes of making some money in the summer to save for a new bike. Four children attended the camp that summer, which at the time was housed in his side yard.
The Heinemann Soccer Camp, now partnered with St. Louis Lions of the United Soccer Leagues Premier Development League, concluded its 15th year in July.
He was involved with the camp from day one, but Heinemann said his interest in coaching has grown in recent years.
“It wasn’t until age 24 when I started taking it seriously and looking at the game from that angle because it is a different angle,” said the 26-year-old striker. “I enjoy it.”
He also enjoys playing.
Last weekend against Montreal Impact, Heinemann helped the ‘Caps claim a 3-0 victory in his first start in over five months. His physical style of play added a different dimension to Vancouver’s attack and that didn’t go unnoticed by Whitecaps FC head coach Martin Rennie, who rewarded Heinemann with his second straight start Saturday against Real Salt Lake.
“You train to play in games so it was a great feeling to play,” Heinemann said.
“As a player, I think [coaching] helps me see the game in a different respect, it gives me more experience and it’s something I’d like to do when my playing career has concluded … but hopefully I can play for a lot longer.”