MIA HAMM … NATIONAL SOCCER HALL OF FAME, 2007 … UNITED STATES WOMEN’S NATIONAL SOCCER TEAM, 1988 2004 … 2-TIME FIFA WORLD PLAYER OF THE YEAR, 2001, 2002 … OLYMPIC GOLD MEDAL, 1996, 2004; SILVER MEDAL, 2000 The most intangible aspect of winning and losing is the human heart. MIKE REID, NFL Pro Bowl defensive end and Grammy-winning songwriter 106 IT’S HOW YOU PLAY THE GAME Iwant to be the best player. That’s what I told my college coach, Anson Dorrance. His reply stumped me. He asked if I knew what that meant. I didn’t. So he walked over to the light switch, flipped it on, and said, It’s a decision, that’s all, a decision. Being the best you means being the best every single day. Its sounds strange, because I was coming off a couple of national titles at North Carolina and I’d made the national team. I was a starter on the U.S. National team at sixteen, but now, for the first time, I was learning about true dedication and commitment. I told Anson that I was ready, and so he let me know that that meant that every day I had to think of some aspect of my game that I was going to get better at. So I did just that. My junior year, I trained like crazy, especially on fitness.

THE MOMENT One day, as I was running sprints in the park, Anson happened to be driving by. When he saw me, he stopped and just stared at me. He may have wanted to say something, but I was breathing so hard, he left. The next week, I got a letter in the mail saying, The vision of a champion is someone drenched in sweat, bent over from exhaustion, when no one else is watching. I still have that note to this day. At that moment, I felt I was finally on my way. When no one is there to make sure you are accountable, do you push yourself as hard? The answer is, if you want to be the best, yes. I learned to push myself just as hard in or out of the spotlight. My teammates saw the change in me, and as a result, I felt like I was more equipped to lead. Throughout the rest of my career, I built off that and, in essence, became my own coach. I did not need someone to push me. I knew what to do and how to do it. Myself. No doubt, some of my teammates were intimidated by my intensity, but they also knew I would do anything for them. If I could make them feel good about themselves by making them feel successful on the field, then I would do anything to make that happen.

MIA HAMM 107 THE PUNCH Growing up, I played on an all-boys team and it was great because it toughened me up. One day I scored a goal and this kid just refused to admit it was a goal and would not play until I agreed with him. I wouldn’t budge, so he took his ball and was walking away when he shoved me. I shoved him back, so he slugged me right in the face. My nose just started gushing blood, but I still wanted to beat the crap out of him. My coach held me back and later he let me know that the way to beat someone like that was to beat him on the field. And the next day, that’s exactly what I did. It was one of the first times I ever stood up for myself. From then on, I’ve never backed off, but at the same time, I’ve never put myself ahead of the team. If I’d punched him on the field, that would have been putting myself ahead of the team. I often wonder where that guy is today. MY WRAP Mia Hamm had to learn to be tough and to maximize her talent, which made her a leader. It’s refreshing to hear that the most naturally gifted female athlete of this generation had to go through the same struggles most of us do. Nothing, absolutely nothing, comes without hard work.

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