Former Razorback hired as coach at Whitman
Heather Cato, a four-year starter for Arkansas, has been named women's soccer coach at Whitman. She replaces Scott Shields, who vacated the position this spring to coach the men's and women's cross country teams at Whitman.
Cato, 32, honed her soccer skills at an early age with Washington's Olympic Development Program. She started with the ODP at age 12 and was playing at the regional and national levels before leaving for Arkansas.
She kicked off her coaching career as an assistant at Arkansas-Little Rock from 2001 to 2003. Soon thereafter, she put that career on hold to help care for older brother James Trickey II, who was diagnosed in 2002 with Lou Gehrig's disease. Trickey, 43, died in the spring of 2007 at his home in Cape Girardeau, Mo.
While helping care for her brother, Cato worked as a criminal investigator for the State of Missouri. She completed her master's degree in criminal justice and sociology at Arkansas-Little Rock in 2003.
"It was the worst yet most rewarding experience I've ever been through," she says. "It wasn't easy watching my brother go through his ordeal, but he was so resilient through it all. His will to stay active and his desire to live were inspiring.
"One of the last things Jim told me was to live my dream, and coaching soccer is definitely my dream. It's not possible to put into words how thankful I am to have this coaching opportunity at Whitman.
"I could not be more happy than I am right now. My mom says the smile hasn't left my face since I was offered the job."
Cato, who expects to start work at Whitman on July 20, is no stranger to campus or to Mike Washington, the men's soccer coach at Whitman. She assisted Washington with summer youth camps at Whitman in 2003 and 2004. "Mike was also one of my premier soccer club coaches for several years when I was younger," she says. "The chance to coach alongside Mike is a huge plus with my new job.
"I think of Mike as the best coach I ever had during my playing career, from the Olympic Development Program through college. He really tries to get to know his players, and he's very good at getting the best possible efforts and results from everyone. That's what I strive to do as a coach."
Cato, who made the Academic Honor Roll as a player at Arkansas, says she looks forward to "working with some of the most intelligent student-athletes in the country at Whitman. The idea of coaching student-athletes who are students, first and foremost, is something that appeals to me.
"I want to encourage them to be just as competitive on the field as they are in the classroom. That's my job -- to push them, on and off the field."
Coaches derive the greatest satisfaction, she says, by helping young athletes become the best possible players and people they can be.
"What you learn as a college athlete are skills you can take with you into the rest of your life," she says. "As a coach, I want my teams to strive for perfection. We might not get there, but we're going to be a better team and better individuals because of the effort."