MIA HAMM • U.S. Women's National Team forward
On chasing the international goal scoring record for so long:
"It really has been a long build up ... I guess, 12 or 13 years. It was an exciting time for me and all my teammates to final get the record. You can see the joy and excitement on their faces when it happened and I was just happy and thankful that they were all a part of it. It was actually a goal that is very reflective of our team, with lots of one touch plays, and I was fortunate to be at the end of it and knock it in."
On the excitement and build-up of the Women's World Cup:
"After the Olympics, when we got to experience the reaction of the fans, it hit us how excited we were about playing in the U.S. I don't think people understand how appreciative we are of the support, and hearing crowds chant USA and cheer us on, is every special. It just fills up with so much pride and helps us realize the importance of wearing that uniform and playing for your country. To do it again in the U.S., well we are so excited about sharing this game with everyone at a level which has never been reached."
On the team's status as role models for players across the U.S.:
"Our team does a good job being available to the fans. We stay after every game as long as possible to sign as many autographs as we can. Our team is very conscious of being role models and they do a tremendous job with that responsibility."
On the motivation behind her new book, "Go for the Gold":
"I wrote the book for a lot of reasons. One of the things you can see the kids get excited about first, other than being around you and getting autographs, is realizing that they do lots of the same things we do. And that's in terms of drills, and getting nervous before a game, and making mistakes on the field ... we have very similar successes and mistakes as young players, and it helps them to know that. I also wanted to share with them some of the things we do with this team, and how it prepares us for games."
On having the building at Nike Campus in Beaverton, Oregon named after her:
"Nike made it (the dedication ceremony on June 4) extremely special for myself, my teammates and my entire family. They had some special videos prepared and some meaningful gifts, and made the whole experience special. It was gratifying to see all the employees at Nike come out and be a part of it. I mean, 'Who would have thought?' It was never a goal of mine to have a building named after me, to say the least, but Nike has done so many good things for me, and they've done a tremendous job of promoting soccer and women's soccer and asking for my input in the things they do."
On her Gatorade commercial with Michael Jordan:
"My teammates think it is wonderful. He's one of those athletes that everyone wants to meet. It was very special for me, through Gatorade, to let me a part of that family. He made it very special. He was very generous with his time and made me feel very comfortable. It was a big commercial shoot with everything we needed to do in two days."
On whether the commercials she's done promote glamour or athleticism:
"I don't think they even bring up the glamour. And that's what I like about them. I'm a soccer player, and I don't really do much else. The Nike shots focus on us as a team, while the Gatorade shows the athleticism which is a part of me, because I grew up playing a lot of sports."
On her adjustments to daily life and her mental approach to the increasing media demands:
"One of the things we need to understand is we both have a job to do (the media and herself). And I respect the opportunity I am provided to get the word out there and promote the game. Everyone helps me out, from my teammates, to coaches, to family, and we just try to balance the time we need to be available to the media, with the physical time needed to concentrate on my job and be with the team in preparation. My main focus right now, though, is to continue preparing for the game on June 19, and the enter Women's World Cup."
Is there a question which haven't been asked that you wish you had?
"Yes, 'What's my golf handicap?' ... I started golfing when I was a senior in college, just playing off and on, and never got into it until our residency camp in Florida in 1995. It was a real good way for me to let out frustration and develop a side of my game which wasn't as strong: the psychological side. Golf has taught me a lot of patience. There are days I use playing to help me on the field, and other times we are out there just to knock the ball around. With Julie (Foudy) and Carla (Overbeck), we are pretty competitive. My handicap? It's a 12."
On how comfortable she is with her celebrity status:
"I don't look at it as celebrity status. I've had lots of opportunities from everything that's happened, but my motivation is not about personal gains. I want to do as much as I can to get the sport out there. I don't want what's happening to ever change the way I treat people. I've had a lot of people who have been very helpful to me growing up and I want to maintain the same perspective that I had from when I started playing the sport to when I leave it."
On her first memory of being recognized as someone famous:
"It really started happening after the Olympics in 1996. That's when people started recognizing us (the U.S. Women's National Team) on a different level."
On the image and products she chooses to endorse? On her relationship with Nike:
"It's a great opportunity to get our sport out there. I'm willing to do whatever it takes, especially around an event like this. There are still things we want to accomplish in this sport, and one of them is to get a pro league in place in the U.S. I want to help that situation. Of course, there are lots of other people associated with this team that are always helping, too, that don't get as much attention. They are all great ambassadors.
"I have spoken to Nike in depth and they've suffered through a lot of criticism on this topic. But they have assured me, especially on the soccer side, that these issues are being addressed."
On the first time she saw herself in a commercial:
"The first time was a Pert commercial a few years ago and I was at a gym working out, and it just kind of hit. I really just laughed and thought, 'I can't believe this.'"
On how she sees the development of the game in the future:
"I think, hopefully, we can get a pro league starter after the 2000 Olympics. What we want to is have a first-class professional league in which the players are paid full salaries and can focus on the sport. Also, having players take part at a high level, so that when they return to their countries they can show and tell people how what it means to play in a league at that level, which helps the sport worldwide as they go back to their countries and spread the word."
On whether the U.S. winning the WWC will play a direct impact on the game's future:
"Winning would help, obviously, to jump start the league. But not winning is not going to destroy the opportunity that has been created for a league. The talent is still there and still exciting, and regardless of whether we win, we are still going to need to have a pro league to continue to develop. Sponsor interest and TV recognition coming out of the Women's World Cup is an important factor, but we've done so much already that we have enough good things in place to move ahead, either way. I'm an optimist."
On her presence and role in a pro league:
"We are still working on that. But a lot of people are excited about it. U.S. Soccer is limited in how much they can be involved. They've said they want something to happen and are working on a business plan, and a committee has been formed to work on the viability of a pro league. U.S. Soccer obviously, though, can't run a pro league, but they can assist in the start up process. Whether I'm playing in the league or not? I don't know ... I just want to get to that day."
On teammate Michelle Akers:
"When she is out there she is always playing at 100%. She plays with her heart, and no matter how she is feeling, she plays physical. As a teammate, we always want her on the field. If she gets knocked down, we are always hoping she will get right back up, because she is a player that leads by example. She is a very special and important part of this team."
On the team's attacking players and style of attack:
"That is a wonderful question. People say, 'Mia you have all this pressure,' but I feel so good about our front line and my teammates, that if I'm not putting the ball in the net, our team is more than OK. There's no pressure on me to carry the team. Tiffeny Milbrett can tear teams apart and has had an MVP type of year. And she is only going to get better. Cindy Parlow bring a different dimension to the team. She can hold off a defender and take anyone on one-v-one and make them look silly. Off the bench, Shannon MacMillan is getting more confident every day. We are very similar in that we are both slashers and take people on with a change of pace. And she is a clinical finisher in front of the goal. Danielle Fotopoulos is a target player than can hold the ball and create her own space. And when gets her shot off, it is like a laser.
"Julie Foudy coming out of the midfield is playing the best she ever has, I think, and is taking players on and creating for us. And Kristine Lilly is another attacker in our midfield who does some of the defensive work behind the rest of us, but has the energy to get forward into the attack and put the ball in the net."
On her key trait as a goalscorer:
"Luck! No, I would say it is maturity and learning the timing of the game. When to shoot and when not to shoot. That type of thing."
On the growth and respect of the game outside the U.S.:
"It's growing. I think when we play overseas, well, a good example every year is in Portugal at the Algarve Cup, where the tournament and grows and grows every year. People are getting excited about the women's game. It's a bit of a different audience. A few years ago we played a game in France before a men's game, and at the start of our game there were not to many people there, but by the end, people coming in were getting into it, and understanding what the women's game brings to the sport.
"The attention being garnered by the Women's World Cup is important. Just the sheer numbers of media credentials and television broadcasts showing everything worldwide, shows how the game is evolving."
About her family's importance in shaping her as a player and person:
"My parents are both such loving people, that no matter what I wanted to do, or no matter how I acted, they always supported and loved me. They always made us feel special. In a family of six kids it's easy to get lost in the shuffle, and they never let that happen to any of us. They taught us what it means to be kind to people and helping less fortunate people. Whether it's in a big way or a small way."
On using sports to help shape her as a person:
"Sports were a way for me to fit in. To find a group of friends that I had one thing in common with, before learning more about other kids. I'm not a real extrovert, and I was usually in the background. So it was easier for me to communicate with people through sports and getting to know people that way."
On growing up in a "military household":
"I grew up with the military, but the military never came home with my dad. It was not a 'yes sir, no sir' type of house. It was a very open house. It was just the opposite really. My mom is extremely passionate and my dad is very disciplined and focused. To see how they kind of went toward each of their own occupations (her father a pilot, and mother a ballerina). The energy they put into it helped all of us kids."
On the changes between the 1991 and 1995 tournaments, compared to 1999:
"The level of play has improved so much over the years. Obviously, the attention surrounding the tournament and the excitement around it has definitely improved. As a player that is exciting to see. More teams are involved this year, and every game is going to force a team to play their best to win."
"This year's tournament is going to be awesome. This is what we've always wanted our sport to be. And every is excited about it. It was great to see the looks on the other players faces at the FIFA World All-Star Game in February in San Jose. You could see how they appreciated the respect they received. I think it is going to be a great tournament, with so many different styles of soccer and good soccer. I am so excited."
On the reaction of the team after the semifinal loss to Norway in 1995:
"Lots of tears, which were motivated by different reasons for different players. We all felt we could have done much more, both as individuals and as a collective, as a team. That's what we were disappointed in most. We weren't as secure as we thought we were. When Michelle (Akers) went out in the first game, we never recovered from that. And as a team we realized we needed to be stronger in that regard."