WALLA WALLA, Wash. – Heather Cato, a four-year starter for the University of Arkansas Razorbacks during her collegiate playing days, has been named the new women’s soccer coach at Whitman College.
Cato, 32, replaces Scott Shields, who vacated the position this spring to coach the men’s and women’s cross country teams at Whitman.
Cato, a graduate of Mountain View High School in Vancouver, Wash., honed her soccer skills at an early age with Washington’s Olympic Development Program (ODP). She started with the ODP at age 12 and was playing at the regional and national levels before leaving for Arkansas.
Cato, who still ranks among Razorback career scoring leaders, kicked off her coaching career as an assistant at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock from 2001 to 2003.
Soon thereafter, she put her coaching career on hold to help care for older brother James Trickey II, who was diagnosed in 2002 with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a debilitating and eventually fatal condition known as 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 was hired after a nationwide search, was backed by glowing recommendations from head coaches at both the University of Washington and Arkansas-Little Rock.
“Heather is clearly an outstanding young professional who is going to be an excellent leader for our women's soccer team,” Whitman athletics director Dean Snider said. “I am very pleased to welcome her to the college and our athletic program.”
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.”
While helping with her brother's medical care and working as a criminal investigator, Cato stayed active on the coaching front in two ways. She ran FC Cato Academy, providing individual and team soccer instruction, and served as a volunteer coach for two youth soccer associations.
During her two seasons as an assistant coach at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock, Cato managed a $350,000 team budget and $120,000 scholarship fund, organized team practices and scouting reports, developed and implemented year-around strength and conditioning programs, and assisted with recruiting that helped boost the team's win total by eight victories from one season to the next.
Cato, who played both forward and outside midfielder at Arkansas-Fayetteville, led the Razorbacks in scoring as a senior and finished with 24 career goals. She was second on the school's all-time scoring list at the time of her graduation, and she still ranks sixth on the all-time Razorback scoring ladder.
Arkansas won the Southeastern Conference's western division title in her first season and then lost the SEC championship game in the final seven seconds of double-overtime. The Razorbacks shared in a second divisional title during her senior season.
Cato booted 13 of her career goals against SEC opponents and was her school's all-time leading scorer in conference games at the time of her graduation. She still ranks third in conference scoring at Arkansas.
She played just two seasons of varsity soccer at Vancouver's Mountain View High School, twice earning all-conference honors and taking home Player-of-the-Year honors after her first year.
“A lot of college coaches at the time didn't pay much attention to high school soccer,” she says. “It made more sense for me to focus my time on my Olympic Development and club soccer teams.”
She was a member of the Washington state and regional ODP teams from 1992 through 1996. She was a captain of the state squad for three years and she captained the Region IV team in 1996, when she was named to the under-20 ODP national team.
As a national team member, she traveled to Florida for one training camp and then toured Europe with the team for a month.
Cato, who was born in Missouri and moved to Vancouver when she was 10, is the daughter of Jim and Tina Trickey and David and Debbie Cato, all of whom live in Cape Girardeau. Siblings Jason Trickey and Christie Snyder also live Missouri.
CONTACT: Dave Holden,
Sports Information Director