FLASHBACK: Heaps of experience (2008)
Jay Heaps saw coaching in his future well before his playing days were done
November 15, 2011
The following story was published in “FREEKICK” midway through the 2008 season, more than three years before Jay Heaps became the Revolution’s head coach
Having signed a contract extension with the Revolution at the end of the 2007 season, 31-year-old defender Jay Heaps knows that he still has a lot left to give on the field. However, Heaps is also fully aware that playing careers don’t last forever, and the tenth-year pro admits that he’s already begun thinking about life after his career in professional soccer.
In Heaps’ case, the transition away from the playing field might be a short journey to the sidelines, as the Duke University graduate has noted that a career in coaching is an option that he’s considered. That thought process has certainly been affected by his relationship with the Blue Devils’ head men’s basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski, whom Heaps formed a close relationship with during his four years on the Duke hoops team.
“Believe me, you think about [the end of your career] quite a bit when you get older, and coaching has obviously crossed my mind,” Heaps said. “But I also think about taking aspects of what I’ve learned from Coach K and maybe applying it to other fields, as well. What I learned from him over four years and what I learn from him still today is that [the lessons] cross over sports; they go into everyday life and that is something that I’ll take with me no matter what, whether it’s coaching or another career outside of that.”
One of those other career options that may still revolve around soccer would place Heaps behind a microphone and in front of a camera, as the well-spoken veteran has enjoyed a few brief forays into broadcasting.
“It’s something that I would definitely be interested in,” Heaps noted. “We’ll see. I’m getting my feet wet. Brad [Feldman, the Revolution’s Broadcasting Executive and play-by-play voice], and I have worked on a couple things and tried to do a couple pieces throughout the year, just trying to find a little niche to see if I am any good.”
If Heaps is half as successful in front of the camera as he’s been on the field during his illustrious MLS career, he should prosper. The 1999 MLS Rookie of the Year and one-time All-Star has started in four MLS Cup Finals for the Revs, while he’s also accumulated the most appearances, starts and minutes played in the history of the club. Such experience is rare in a youthful league that is now in its 13th year of existence, making Heaps one of New England’s unquestioned leaders.
“I’m honored to have been a part of this organization for as long as I have,” Heaps said. “I take pride in the fact that every year, we have a common goal … we come in and we want to win, and every year we put that MLS championship as our goal. Just being a part of this soccer organization and the Kraft family, I’m just honored to be the longest tenured player right now.”
While Heaps has already achieved much more in his career than most players could ever dream, he is adamant that there is one major bullet on his resume that is still missing. Four MLS Cup appearances for Heaps have resulted in four gut-wrenching losses, and he believes that a part of his career would remain unfulfilled if the Revs aren’t able to secure the elusive MLS Cup title during his playing days.
“The way I am driven right now, the MLS Cup title has got to happen,” Heaps stated. “Being so close so many times is heart-wrenching, but it’s also great motivation. There will be a hole in my heart if, for some reason, we can’t get there.”
If Heaps is to raise the MLS Cup trophy, it would almost certainly be in a Revolution jersey, as the Longmeadow, Mass., native hopes that his recent contract extension keeps him with the club for the remainder of his career.
“It is one hundred percent my goal [to finish my career in New England],” Heaps said. “I am from the area. I’ve loved playing here the last [eight] years and it would be very, very difficult to leave here because I’ve invested not only my soccer career, but my family and my life here. I’m honored to be a part of this organization and I want to stay a part of this organization.”
The family that Heaps has rooted in New England consists of his wife, Danielle, and the couple’s two children; three-year-old John F. “Jack” Heaps IV and one-year-old Olivia. With fatherhood now a major part of his life off the field, Heaps admits that having children has changed not only his perspective of the game, but also the culture of being a professional athlete in general.
“I’ve always loved the game,” Heaps said. “But being able to continue to play and be a part of their lives in this capacity to me is a great lifestyle. I love playing because I love being able to see them after the game, or having my son go to the game and see me on the field, or even just the lifestyle we have with being able to be around them more.
“It’s not a nine-to-five every day, so it’s nice to be able to see them grow and it has given me perspective on the fact that this is a great life. We don’t make millions of dollars, but it is a great life and I have loved every minute of it.”