Heather Zimmerman is a junior midfielder on the Goshen College women’s soccer team. but she also helps out on another team, the Guam National women’s soccer team.When Zimmerman was 12 years old, she quit ballet lessons and joined a local soccer team, the Tumon Typhoons.
“Soccer was new to me,” she said, “and I didn’t posses much knowledge of the game, but I had a love and passion for the sport that made up for my inexperience.”
At 14, Zimmerman attended a soccer camp hosted by the Guam national team, where she met the women’s head coach, Tom Renfro, who was interested in having Zimmerman attend his team’s practices. A few days later, Zimmerman found herself at a national team practice.
“They were strong, tough, and not very willing to let a little “haole” (white girl) join them at practice,” she said. “However, I didn’t let this deter me from my dream. I worked hard at practices, took all the advice from the coaches and worked towards my goal—playing for the Guam Women’s National Team.”
Zimmerman said practices were often “extremely challenging… physically and emotionally draining,” with the heavy sun and older teammates, but wearing a team jersey made it worth the struggle.
Soon, Zimmerman was at her first tournament, the Women’s World Cup qualifiers in Japan.
As one of the youngest women on a team, Zimmerman was only able to play for 15 minutes during the last game against Myanmar, but after more practice back in Guam, Zimmerman was selected to play in the U-19 Women’s Championship qualifiers in China. But the previously excited Zimmerman was disappointed to learn she was to be benched during their first game of the tourney, against the Philippines.
“I was benched for this match and it broke my heart,” she said. “I wanted to play for my island but had to learn to support my team on and off the field.”
“The next match was against Korea,” she said. “At this point, I had given up all hope to play at all on the tournament because I was too young. However, during our team meeting, Renfro wrote down the starters’ names and my name was there under the left defensive position. I was elated the whole day. I could not stop praying or smiling.”
Despite losing to Korea 6-0, Zimmerman couldn’t stop smiling the entire game. After that game, she went on to play in several games across Guam and Asia.
Last fall, Zimmerman was able to join her national team again in the East Asian Football Federation Women’s Championship Competition.
Zimmerman left for Guam to practice before the tourney—only three days after receiving a phone call from Guam’s assistant coach, Cheri Stewart. After several days of practice, the team flew to Taiwan for the tournament where they took on Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Saipan.
“I was privileged to help contribute to our win against Saipan and scored my first international goal. It was a great experience to get the opportunity to represent my island again. I was truly blessed.”
Even with the early disappointments and losses among the wins, Zimmerman is grateful for her experience with the team.
“Every trip I have gone on has been a tremendous honor playing for island, team and family.”