Southeast Missouri State University student publication

Southeast soccer head coach leads by mantra 'impossible is nothing'

Thursday, September 21, 2017
Southeast soccer coach Heather Nelson watches the games from the sidelines in the Aug. 11 scrimmage.
Photo by Ariel Ferman

Southeast head soccer coach Heather Nelson pursued coaching because of her passion for the sport. Nelson started coaching when she was a freshman in college. She coached 14-year-old girls who made it to big games in Canada, there they won a gold medal. Her success there started her coaching career off right.

Nelson has been a coach at Southeast for 19 years. Before coming to Southeast she coached at Florida State, Province of Saskatchewan and she attended Canada’s National Coaching Institute.

“Southeast has been a good environment for me to have a healthy balance between work and family,” Nelson said. “I knew nothing about SEMO, Paul [husband]l;talked me into coming to the interview. My perspective coming in was very tempered. After I spent a couple days here with the people in the athletic department and had my ‘official visit’ I had a complete 180 thinking this is an absolute wonderful place to be. It would be a good fit to grow my family.”

Nelson built Southeast’s program from scratch in 1999. The Redhawks have had 13 winning seasons with her here and has compiled a 174-113-44 record.

“The first and only coach at the time. It was a shocker of a start for me,” she said. “I had the experience of starting a Division I program. Which is probably why I was a top candidate after the interviews. My goal was to land a player a week from the start of preseason until we were kicking the ball on field.”

Nelson has been a successful coach at Southeast. The women’s soccer team has won seven conference and tournament Ohio Valley Conference titles.

“Other coaches were making all that happen,” she said. “I just thought if I could follow in their path, learn from them, and try to get to know the institution through them then I would have the chance to achieve the things they were achieving.”

To motivate her players she has the quote, “Impossible is nothing,” by Meg Herndon. The quote has become a distinct part of the soccer program. It’s on their gear and in their locker room.

“When I first started it was ‘greater expectations,’” Nelson said. “In more recent years it is ‘impossible is nothing’, because of the death of Meg Herndon. I hope with or without me that this is part of the institution and soccer program whether I am here or not.”

Meg Herndon passed away, because of a scooter/car accident near campus.

As a coach she hopes she has affected her players as much as they have affected her. Southeast has become a family and second home to Nelson.

“I am blessed with high-achieving, bright, great women,” she said. “Honestly that would be the hardest thing to walk away from. Even when I walk around campus giving tours to a prospective student someone touches me. I did not get this homey feeling in Florida as I do at Southeast.”