ENCINITAS — For Nate Hetherington, putting on that San Diego Sockers jersey has truly been a lifelong dream. So much so, that Hetherington remembers writing a report in the first grade about what he wanted to be when he grew up: His answer — to be a professional soccer player.
Hetherington has spent the majority of his life growing up in Encinitas, where soccer quickly developed into a passion for him.
“It was the only sport I played when I was younger,” Hetherington said. “I wasn’t interested in baseball or football or basketball. I just fell in love with it right away at a very young age.”
He started playing soccer when he was 5, starting with the San Diego Surf and then moving on to play with the La Jolla Nomads.
The game wasn’t as prominent when he played as it is now, Hetherington, who also coaches with the Rancho Santa Fe Attack, explained.
“I’ve always had that passion. (I’m) not sure exactly where it came from. I think it was just from kicking the ball around and saying, ‘Hey this is fun, I want to continue this.’ Growing up, I just focused on playing year round and I always knew what I wanted to do.”
The midfielder/defender also known as “Captain America,” (he doesn’t where the nickname came from) is returning to the indoor pitch after tearing his ACL during the offseason last year.
A veteran presence, Hetherington fills a leadership role on and off the field, taking an interest in his teammates’ lives, and ensuring the game is being played for the love of it and showing it the respect it deserves.
He wasn’t sure he was going to return after his knee injury, but after receiving encouragement from his team he knew he wanted to come back.
“They’re one of the main reasons why I wanted to come back, because that camaraderie is just priceless,” he said.
Another reason is for the fun of the game, especially indoor soccer.
“It’s a real fun game because the speed of play is so fast. It makes you always involved in the immediate moment,” he added.
Hetherington said he encourages the younger generation to come out and show their dedication to the team, especially for those looking to want to become professional soccer players.
It’s what Hetherington did.
“When I was a kid, that’s what we had. You’d watch maybe Manchester United play on TV, but really all we had was the San Diego Sockers, so I was always down there; always cheering them on. They were a great team back then and a lot of fun, as we are now. But I feel they had something very special; that we want to show our respect and try to bring that back in any way that we can.”
The passion for the game still resides in the 37-year-old and for his teammates. “I feel like one of my jobs is to be there for whomever needs it as far as my teammates go; and help guide and lead by example in any way that I can.”
As for the team goals, Hetherington said: “Anything but a championship is going to be a disappointment. But…you continue to work hard and do all those things that you have control over and the championships will take care of themselves.”