Heather O’Reilly: BSA Visiting Pro
At the Academy, it is one of our core objectives to provide our athletes with meaningful relationships, specifically with positive role models and mentors. We search far and wide to build a staff of remarkable coaches and instructors, as well as special guests like our Visiting Pro, US Women’s National Team starter and 3-time gold medalist, Heather Ann O’Reilly (commonly known by her initials, HAO).
When searching for a professional athlete to invite to the Academy, we were pretty picky! It was important for us to find someone who embraces our philosophy for soccer and for life, everyday. Heather is a perfect fit! She is a world-class soccer player with a wealth of experiences, but she grew up a regular kid in New Jersey, just like our campers. Also, it’s clear that Heather is a natural coach and mentor to children. With a degree in education from UNC-Chapel Hill, she runs her own camp for kids and works with numerous youth organizations.
All Eyes on HAO!
Monday, July 22, 2013 marked “the best day ever” in the lives of Berkshire Soccer Academy athletes and staff who welcomed our Visiting Pro, Heather O’Reilly. Heather started her first day at camp, just like our campers do, with the “Berky Combine”. Like a real combine, it involves a series of fundamental skill assessments used to group athletes and gauge their improvement. Cheering her on in a circle around her, campers and staff watched in amazement as Heather tallied impressive scores.
The Berky Warm-Up followed. Now our athletes had the chance to teach Heather how they prepare before a training session. Even though they all performed the exercises together, all eyes were on the gold medalist. She definitely moves like a world-class athlete!
Heather Trains our Berky Girls
Then Heather ran a well-known shooting drill called “Power and Finesse” to small groups of about 10 players, allowing for every single girl to learn from her. Heather showed them the basic mechanics of her rocket shot, and then our girls got the chance to show Heather their stuff. HAO even joined in on the goal celebrations by “shining the shoes” of girls who scored the maximum number of points!
Lunch with the O’Reilly Cabin
After the morning soccer session, Heather joined everyone in the Dining Hall for a delicious meal. It was no surprise that she scored a seat at the O’Reilly table where girls from the O’Reilly cabin (named after her) enjoy all of their camp meals. Throughout lunchtime, Heather spoke with several campers and staff about their soccer dreams and what they enjoy most about the Academy. At the end of lunch, tables are typically dismissed by Cabin-Calls, unique to each cabin name. In honor of our Visiting Pro, the O’Reilly cabin followed Heather’s lead as she performed her very own Cabin-Call! Little does HAO know, her version was repeated by the O’Reilly girls after every meal for the rest of the week.
Q&A with Heather at the Campfire
After lunch, everyone gathered around the campfire as Heather spoke about her soccer career, from childhood up to life as a present-day USWNT star.
BSA: How did you become so successful?
HAO: Self-belief, competitive fire, and self-discipline are the 3 essential elements to meeting your playing potential.
BSA: How often do you train? How do you stay healthy?
HAO: I train six days a week, and always take at least one day to rest per week. That’s how I keep balanced, mentally and physically.
BSA: How did you improve your game when you were a kid?
HAO: By spending as much time as possible with a soccer ball at my feet. Also, I joined pick-up games with the boys to build up that competitive edge.
As Heather said her goodbyes, she reminded all of our athletes to enjoy the rest of their time at the Academy because, “she only wished a camp like ours existed when she was growing up”.
A Lasting Impression
After the Q&A session, Heather surprised the entire camp with an up-close look at her gold medal from the 2012 Olympics. Each camper had the opportunity to personally meet Heather and get a photo with her, as well as an autograph.
The HAO excitement did not end once she departed. Campers spent the rest of the session raving about how amazing she was, many even dedicated their Berky Talent Show skits to moments they shared with her. It was clear that for some of our campers Heather’s visit was a chance to meet a soccer idol; and for others it was a reminder that they can reach their soccer dreams. We are thankful to Heather for visiting and providing such an unforgettable day to all of our athletes and staff! Thanks HAO!