A monthly feature about a U.S. Men’s, Women’s or Youth National Team player whose performance demands that bright, shining spotlight. This month, the spotlight is once again on Heather Mitts. By now, she’s getting used to it, having been through a few gigs on live TV and several photo shoots in guy mags like FHM and Maxim. But she’s temporarily left it all behind for a shot at the 2004 U.S. Women’s Olympic Team.
Heather NovaHeather Mitts is nothing if not versatile. She possesses qualities that someday may make her a top international defender: she’s feisty, fast, skillful, fearless and loves to get forward from the back.
But after she finishes her soccer career, she also possesses qualities that may make her a star in a different arena: Television. Mitts is well-spoken, funny, attractive, driven and creative. All qualities that served her well during her stint as a co-host of "The 10 Show," a fun, laid-back morning show that comes on, appropriately, at 10 a.m. on channel 10, after the "Today" show on Philadelphia’s NBC affiliate WCAU.
After the WUSA suspended operations last fall, like many players, the former Philadelphia Charge star was ready to jump back into the real world, (and we don’t mean what happens when seven strangers are picked to live in a house…). We mean a job that didn’t include these prerequisites:
--Must be able to chase down Mia Hamm every day in practice.
--Must be able to bang bodies with German star Birgit Prinz.
--Will wear shorts every day and get paid to work out.
--Will likely suffer cuts and bruises on shins and knees.
--Must be able to head a soccer ball descending at high speeds over great distances.
All those she could handle. Live morning television was another matter.
After playing to solid reviews as a studio commentator on ABC and ESPN’s coverage of the 2003 Women’s World Cup, Mitts was approached by the station and jumped into the co-hosting role at "The 10 Show" with admittedly little experience in that field.
"Hosting a show without any experience was tough, and a little bit scary," said Mitts, who would co-host on Monday and Tuesday and do a feature out in the community on Fridays. "The past TV stuff I had done had all been soccer related, so I pretty much had to start from scratch and they kind of just threw me in there. I felt like I could do it, but it’s not so easy when the cameras go on. It was easier in that I had co-hosts that were experienced and comfortable on TV and we could interact, but the most nerve-racking thing was when I had to host a segment on my own."
Mitts was making solid progress in her new field, until she received something almost as coveted as a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory – an invite to train with the U.S. Women’s National Team in their first major camp of 2004.Mitts, who has five caps for the USA, had kept herself fit in case that chance arose. In fact, she had written into her contract at WCAU that if U.S. WNT head coach April Heinrichs called, she could go. Well, Heinrichs called, and she went, so the TV gig is on hold for now.
"They were very supportive and understanding of me going after my dreams," said Mitts of her co-workers at the TV station, who sent a reporter all the way from Philly to interview her and other U.S. players during the USA’s training camp in Los Angeles. "They didn’t think I would leave this soon; they thought maybe I would leave in April, but the time was now. I had learned a little more each day, but I have a lot more to learn about the TV business. Whenever I get an extended time off, I plan to go back. They are great people."
Mitts’ very first segment by herself was an interview with Zora of "Joe Millionaire" fame, who spurned Evan Marriott and admitted that reality TV isn’t so real at all, with all of the editing and story molding.
Mitts handled the four-minute segment with aplomb and was off and running, even though her new job involved no running. But that doesn’t mean she didn’t sweat.
"They understood that I was a rookie, but I know it had to be frustrating for (the cast and crew) at times because I didn’t know what I’m doing," said Mitts. " It was certainly frustrating for me as there were simple things I should know how to do like putting together a package, coming up with story lines, doing voice-overs, and then the cutting and editing. Someone had to guide me through it all. I’m naturally hard on myself, so it was stressful if I thought I’d had a bad show, just like when I think I’ve had a bad game."
But that won’t be the case for long if and when Mitts gets the chance to spend more time on her second career.
"I definitely like it and it’s one of those things where I enjoy a good challenge," said Mitts, who was also training to anchor the evening sports cast. "I want to keep improving to a point where I’m good at it, just like I work at soccer or anything else in my life."
Mitts actually did have some preparation for her work on "The 10 Show," serving as a roving reporter for the Philadelphia Eagles pre-game show, "The Tailgate Show." Mitts was charged with roaming the parking lot during home games, interviewing Eagles fans and sampling way too much tailgating cuisine, raising the as-yet-unanswered question, "how many Philly cheese steaks can a 5-foot-5 soccer player eat?"
Often, the fans had consumed a half dozen too many adult beverages and had "unkind" words to say about the opposing team, their quarterback, the quarterback’s mother, and the sexual preference of the opposing head coach.
Still, Mitts became so popular with the fans that in an un-scientific poll asking which Eagle player the fans would most like to tailgate with, a landslide 45% chose Eagle back-up QB A.J. Feeley, who just happens to be Mitts’ boyfriend, but with this caveat: "only if he brings Heather along."
But for now, though, Mitts’ focus is inside the stadium, as she works to solidify a spot on the national team.
"Soccer is my first priority," said Mitts. "After the WUSA folded, it really hit home that soccer might not always be there for me, and that I needed to appreciate every opportunity I got to play at the top level. Once soccer is over, TV is something I can take more seriously. For now, I am really enjoying playing and competing with great players every day."
Table of Contents
1) Armchair Midfielder [The U-23 Class of 2000: Then and Now]
2) In Threes [w/ MNT midfielder Chris Klein]
3) Making it in the Show [w/ U-23 MNT midfielder David Testo]
4) Queries & Anecdotes [w/ U-23 MNT forward Conor Casey]
5) Mark that Calendar [U-23 MNT vs. Group A – 2004 CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying / Live on MatchTracker]
6) Superstar!!! [w/ WNT defender Heather Mitts]
7) Point/Counterpoint [Who will be the Breakout Players for U.S. Soccer in 2004?]
8) You Don't Know Jack (Marshall) [General U-23/Men’s Olympic Trivia]
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