How Tobin Heath Uses Adversity to Create Opportunity

Tobin Heath has two Olympic Gold Medals and a World Cup Trophy to brag about, and she’s still going for more at this year’s Women’s World Cup in France. Heath also has the title of “Finalist” from the 2011 World Cup. In the final, she missed a key penalty kick that contributed to the US’ dramatic loss to Japan. When Julie Foudy asked her about that miss and if she wished she could take the kick again, Heath said she’d take it and miss it a million more times if it had the same long-term outcome. Call it grit. Call it resilience. Call it mental toughness. We can learn something from Tobin Heath. 


We usually don’t expect our athletes to quote Steve Jobs, but Heath did: “You can’t connect the dots going forward; you can only connect them looking backwards.” A World Cup Final penalty kick itself is something every player dreams about their entire life. She had played out and practiced that moment both on the pitch and in her mind from back when she was a little kid on a Jersey soccer field. When the real opportunity came, it didn’t go her way. It hurt, badly, BUT – it set in motion a chain of events that helped take her career to new heights. 


After the loss, Heath helped lead a freshly inspired team to a Gold Medal in the 2012 Olympics and then a dominant World Cup title in 2015. She played for one of the most prestigious clubs in Europe (Paris St. Germain) for the 2013-2014 season and said it changed her entire outlook on the sport. She got some press for saying the US plays “sorority soccer,” where everyone is too nice to each other and that a little more toughness would be needed for the American game to improve. In 2016 she was named US Soccer’s Female Athlete of the Year. And still, in hindsight, she says all of those dots of personal and professional progress lead from her single missed penalty kick. That’s why she’d take it and miss a million more times. 


What we do with the inevitable stumbles matter. How our clients respond to their own setbacks, the ways we can help get them through those rough patches – these moments can make all of the difference in what follows. We have to look for adversity with the expectation that it can be used to breed opportunity. Value for ourselves and others stems from this ability to connect the dots and articulate the story.  Tobin Heath figured it out for herself, we can strive to do the same.

Find more on Tobin Heath with some additional links and videos in this post.



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