U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Nick Heath is just 21 years old, but he has already made a name for himself as one of the U.S. Armed Forces’ best soccer players.
A two-time competitor in the Armed Forces Soccer Championships, Heath is one of three Marines on the U.S. Armed Forces soccer team participating in the 7th Military World Games in Wuhan, China, Oct. 17-28.
Despite not initially knowing much about the Military World Games, which are organized by the International Military Sports Council (CISM), Heath hopes to make the most of the opportunity by showcasing his skills on the world level.
“Actually I wasn’t that excited when I found out about it, because I didn’t really know what it was,” Heath said. “Now we are down to the last two months [before leaving], so that’s definitely exciting for me. It’s the biggest tournament I’ve ever played in. Hopefully it’s not the biggest tournament I will ever play in.”
The tournament’s leading goal-scorer, with five goals in four games, at April’s Armed Forces Championship at Naval Station Everett, WA, Heath’s future in soccer looks promising.
“Speed was definitely a big factor,” said Heath of his scoring success. “I have very quick acceleration which allows me to get fouled easily. Two of the goals I scored were on penalty kicks where I got fouled.”
As a high schooler in Jacksonville, Florida, Heath played for the Jacksonville Armada, a developmental pro team, prior to injuring both hip flexors.
With no intent to hang up his soccer cleats anytime soon, Heath plans on using the Armed Forces platform as a springboard towards a potential professional soccer career in the future.
“Playing at a higher level is the overall goal,” Heath said, who is a supply administration specialist at Camp Geiger’s School of Infantry. “[I plan on] using this as a stepping stone, kind of putting it in my tool box and my records saying, ‘hey I did All-Marine [soccer] twice, three years hopefully coming up as well, played at CISM, this is what I did at CISM and here are my next steps as an athlete and a player.’”
Heath, who has a calm demeanor, won’t let the bright lights of the world stage get to him. Instead, he plans on relishing the opportunity.
“I mainly just kind of want to take it in,” Heath said. “I definitely want to take in the moments, but at the same time represent my entire country and showcase not only what Team USA can do, but also what I can do as a Marine.”
Heath also hopes that more Marines can get informed about the All-Marine sports programs as a whole.
“There aren’t as many Marines as there are soldiers,” Heath said. “There aren’t as many Marines as there are airmen or Sailors, so just kind of branching out and informing other athletes and players of this program [would be good], because when I’ve talked about it with other Marines they have no idea what I’m talking about. It’s even Marines who play soccer and are good enough to play at that level.”
Following October’s Military World Games, Heath will be stationed at Fort Devens, MA, where he hopes to land a tryout with the professional soccer team, New England Revolution.
Joining Heath on the Armed Forces team are fellow Marines 1st Lt. Conor Goepel and Capt. Dylan Montambo.
The CISM Military World Games are held every four years. This year’s games will include over 10,000 athletes from more than 100 nations. It is the second largest multi-sporting event in the world behind only the Olympic Games.
CISM’s first Military World Games were held in 1995.