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English newcomer heads Scappoose girls soccer with big plans

After club soccer in England and a pro stint in Finland, Nicholas Heffernan fell in love with Portland


by: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - New Scappoose girls soccer coach Nicholas Heffernan speaks with his team during a break in Wednesday's intrasquad scrimmage with St. Helens. Heffernan officiated the match, as well as coached his first and second teams, which both saw action.Though he was born 5,000 miles away in England, the new girls soccer coach at Scappoose High School feels right at home. Coach Nicholas Heffernan grew up under the sodden skies of the United Kingdom, not so different than what residents of the Pacific Northwest are used to, but with the exception of the August sunshine.

“We don’t get this in England. This might be weird, but I like the rain,” said Heffernan, who arrived in Portland from Montana in December.

This isn’t Heffernan’s first time in the rose city area. His first visit came two years ago, back when he was playing and coaching soccer at Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Mont.

“We told the kids to go downtown, relax and do what they want with the day. I just fell in love with the city,” said Heffernan, who enjoyed everything about Portland; the people, the culture, the food - all of it. “I was there for about four hours, but it stuck in my mind. I’ve traveled around the states and the world, and it just kinda stuck.”

by: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - Nicholas Heffernan watches as subs take the field during an intersquad scrimmage between St. Helens High School and Scappoose High School on Wednesday evening. Throughout his childhood and into his early 20s, Heffernan played with a number of different teams across England, and eventually moved to Findland, where he played for a small club on a professional contract for six months. Though the stint didn’t last long, Heffernan had accomplished something important: following in the footsteps of his dad.

“My dad was a really good soccer player in his day,” said Heffernan, “He was in some professional setups, and that kind of motivated me to push at it and work hard for it.”

Shortly after the return to England, Heffernan received a call from Richard Duffy, the men’s head soccer coach at Rocky Mountain College. “A Scottish guy,” as Heffernan described Duffy with a smile, made him the captain of the team. Along with his duties on the field, Heffernan was also put in charge of whittling down the massive list of possible recruits for Duffy to reach out to. The exorbitant amount of work with low return was frustrating.

“I said ‘coach, what’s going on? How do you sit here for this?’ and he said ‘that’s why you’re doing it.’ There has to be a better way,” said Heffernan.

That system turned out to be STUDENTathleteworld, a college recruiting company, which is his full time job outside of high school soccer. The idea is to help connect high school athletes to college coaches. Heffernan does just about everything, whether it’s special training, setting up meetings or even assisting with recruiting videos. Heffernan bought a franchise and moved to Portland, remembering his first trip to the area.

Overall, Heffernan has been happy in the states, with the exception of one thing.

“It took me about a year in Montana to stop calling it football,” said Heffernan. “When I speak to my friends on Skype... I now say soccer, and they absolutely kill me for it. It’s horrible. Even my mom will Skype me and she’ll be like ‘Nick, it’s football, what are you saying?’”

That isn’t at the forefront for Heffernan during fall soccer season, where he hopes to take a strong Scappoose program and turn it into a state championship contender - even if that means practicing on the field right alongside his team.

“What I like to do is, during preseason I’m running with the team, I’m playing with them constantly. I can’t stand sitting on the sidelines and yell, I have to be involved,” said Heffernan. “The girls will see a lot of that this year.”

Young and energetic, it’s Heffernan’s heart and passion for the game that will aid him in coaching the team, just as much as his technical knowledge and playing experience. That is why, perhaps, his lofty goals seem somewhat attainable.

“With these girls, what they are is conference champions,” said Heffernan. “What they need to be is state champions.”