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Hamm, Foudy & Fawcett Discuss the End of Their Careers

U.S. Women’s National Team legends Mia Hamm, Joy Fawcett and Julie Foudy dialed in for one final media teleconference on Monday, leading up to their final appearance with the U.S. at 8 p.m. PT this Wednesday as the Fan Celebration Tour concludes at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. The match vs. Mexico will be televised live on ESPN Classic.

See what the trio of trailblazers had to say about the final game, their careers, and what comes next.

On being together with the team for the last time:
Foudy: I’ve been in Australia for two weeks, so I’ve had a little time to think about it, but I haven’t really wrapped my brain around it yet. I think the emotion of it hasn’t set in yet. I’m sad because I love the game and I love the sport and I love my teammates. That’s going to be the hardest thing, leaving those guys. We’ve already been planning reunions and monthly visits. I know I’ll be spending a lot of time with them.  We’ve left the game in a better place, which makes me feel good. We’ve got a lot of wonderful young talent coming through including a great Under-19 team and Under-21 team and a lot of people that will step in and do a good job for the United States, not just as great athletes, but, as we’ve always cared about, great people. It’s going to be a moment to smile upon, not to be sad about.

Fawcett: I am excited for this last game. We’ve been away a month now, and I miss everyone already. I am excited to see everyone again and to be able to treat the fans here in Southern California to an exciting game. They will go out there and give it their best as always. I’m a little sad for it to come to an end, and not be able to see everyone everyday. I am also excited to spend time with my family and experience another chapter in my life. I am very happy with where U.S. Soccer has taken the women’s program and excited with who we are leaving it with. I am excited for the young girls and their future. Hopefully they will continue to grow and the young players take over and do well.

Hamm: There are mixed emotions. This is something that we have known and been a part of for a very long time. It’ll be an adjustment. Every year we had a goal set out for ourselves. This is usually our off season, and in late December and January we begin focussing for a new year. There are things in your life that you have had to put on the back burner and you can focus more time and energy on that now. My hope is that this team continues to develop and grow. We’ve all put a lot of time and energy into this along with U.S. Soccer, and we hope that this commitment continues because these players deserve it and this game deserves it.

On using competitiveness off the playing field:
Foudy: It really is an interesting transition. I go out for a jog, and all of my life I have thought I can’t wait to just go out for a jog instead of having to push myself, and I find myself pushing myself. I look forward to channeling that competitiveness into other passions. I have done a lot of work with the Women’s Sports Foundation and other advocacy issues, so I will continue to that and some not-for-profit work and hopefully someday have a real job where I can bring this competitiveness. I will continue to support the game and do camps and all that kind of stuff. There are a lot of areas where that will come in handy.

Hamm: I have my foundation and I haven’t been able to be as involved as I would like to be so I can obviously commit more to that. I have to see what is out there, and not commit to everything at the beginning. I hope my golf game improves, I have family who I haven’t been able to spend a lot of time with, and obviously my husband and seeing where we are going to end up next year. It’s nothing but exciting, and I am just looking forward to it.

Fawcett: I think eventually I will get back into coaching. Just watching my daughter play, it’s been hard with my back right now not being able to help her team out and wanting too. I am sure I will get back into it eventually, but not for a little while. I am going to put my extra energy into my family right now and see what comes next.

On when the team realized entered the main stream:
Foudy: The first time I realized the impact we had was probably after the 1999 World Cup, maybe even the 1996 Olympics. You’d have kids come up to you and break down and start crying. An incident like that happened in Pasadena and I thought the girl was injured, and then we realized that she was meeting the team and it had such a profound impact on her life. I think experiences like those remind you of all the good the team has done. It makes me feel good for what we have accomplished.

Fawcett: I think one thing that struck me was with the fans, like Julie said. Also, when we do those Make-a -Wish appearances. Kids who are fighting for their lives chose to come out and visit us and really want to see us. That has a huge impact on you. They really want to come and meet the team at that point in their lives.

Hamm: Walking into different environments and seeing different celebrities. Seeing other celebrities come up to us and asking us for autographs for their kids, and we just say “You know who we are?” It reached a new level when you go out to practice during the World Cup seeing media personalities you have seen your whole life like Tom Brokaw at your practice.

Foudy on being on the campaign trail with John Kerry:
The John Kerry experience was great. It was interesting to see. We feel like we give a lot of energy to our sport, and a lot of commitment. To watch those people, not just John Kerry but the people behind the campaign, on both sides of the campaign, how hard they work and the energy they give to it, it was inspiring. I spent one day with him and other days with some other great women. We did a get out the women’s vote campaign.

On the future of women’s soccer in the U.S.
Fawcett: I think we are at a turning point right now. If there is no league, decisions need to be made as far as how much U.S. Soccer wants to put into it and continue to make women’s soccer grow. I think that we can continue to be the best with the players that we have and the youth leagues that are out there today. Right now it could go either way. I am hoping that they continue to put a lot into it and continue to make it grow. It will be difficult if there is not a league, but it needs to be done to keep up with the rest of the world. 

Hamm: Brazil has set a new standard for the rest of the world. Without a league we are going to have to lean on the Federation a bit more, and hopefully we will be talking about a potential league next year or the year after where they do not have to bear most of the financial burden. Right now it’s too critical not to make that type of commitment. They have set the standard for all other federations, and that has enabled us to get where we are.

Foudy: I am an optimist and I think there is a bright side to even losing a league. There’s three years of great lessons learned. We are in a period now where the men’s team has done well, the women’s team has done well. Even the Fan Celebration Tour, with not a lot of time to promote it and not a lot of marketing we are still pulling in 18,000 fans. I understand that America responds to big events, but I still think that there is a fan base out there for a league. We clearly made some huge mistakes, but there is an opportunity for another go around. Tonya Antonucci, who headed up Yahoo! Sports and just left them, is taking over the charge right now and is going to be able to dedicate energy to this full time to try to a business plan together and put it in front of investors and sponsors.

On returning this final time for a game near where she got started:
Fawcett: It’s great to be able to play with the national team here in Southern California. It’s a hotbed for soccer. It turns out some of the best players, and it has great development here with the leagues and competitive teams. I am excited to have been able to start and finish here.

Which of the accomplishments is the most fulfilling:
Hamm: There are obviously highlights, but I think competing for this long is the biggest. We were fortunate to start as young as we all did, but at the same time we have to consider the months and years of training on our own and finding a place to play and living day-by-day on part-time jobs to being put on salary to all the opportunities that we’ve had. We’ve seen some people very committed to making themselves better every single day. I know what I did on my own, and I can only imagine what Jules and Joy did on their own.

Foudy: Over the years when people ask I’d always say the last event, the next one would be better and the next one would be better. It’s why we lasted as long as we did. It just became addicting to win like that while playing with your friends. I couldn’t point to one specifically. The most heartbreaking was the 2000 Olympics. I thought it was our best final we had played, and we ended up losing to Norway in double overtime. They all were special in different ways. 

On watching the team as opposed to playing:
Hamm: It’ll be difficult from the standpoint that you want to be out there helping them. These aren’t just your teammates; they are some of your best friends. You want to make sure that they are successful, not that I can help them anymore. I think it’s going to be exciting to be on the opposite side. There are certain things that I won’t miss, but I will miss all the subtle aspects that maybe you don’t get to see all the time. I am excited to be a fan, and my support for them will continue.

Fawcett: I’ve been watching, and the first few games were hard to sit and watch. I definitely wanted to get out there and be a part of it on the field, but it gets easier. It’s a new, enlightening perspective to watch from the bench or from the stands. They don’t listen to me when I tell them to do certain things from there. I think I am ready for this time to watch it as a fan and watch it from the stands.

On the warmest memories of the team:
Foudy: I think there was always laughter. We always had a ball with what we were doing - from bus rides to being crammed in a van, to meals to going to places that were less than desirable but finding a way to enjoy it. Our team was always great at adapting and finding the positives. I’ll miss that friendship. Athletics brings out a side of you that is wonderful. It brings out so many good attributes like competing, intensity and playing at the highest level. There’s been so many bonds that we have gone through on and off the field with marriages, deaths in the family and kids being born - Joy bringing in a whole crop on her own. There’s more than just soccer. It’s truly a family and I will miss that. 

On what awed them about the other person:
Foudy on Joy Fawcett:
With Joy, I was always wowed by her kids and how she was able to balance everything. It was never, ever a team issue. She probably hadn’t slept half the time because the kids were up all night because she traveled everywhere with them, but you never knew it. She was always smiling, and then you hear later from (Shannon MacMillan) that she hadn’t slept all night. Just the way she balanced it and the way she was always such a positive impact on the team and was able to compete at the level she did for so long with such consistency wowed me every day.

Fawcett on Mia Hamm:
With Mia, it’s her dedication and hard work. Every time she went out on the field she worked hard. It wasn’t just the scoring side of the game. You would see her track back on defense and hustle her butt back on defense constantly to help this team. Being a defender, I appreciated that and how hard she worked. As a forward, most of them can sit there and do their offensive thing, but she worked hard on both sides of the game. Everyday in practice she came out and worked hard. I have a lot of respect for her for that. She never sat on her laurels of being Mia Hamm. She always gave it her all and worked hard to earn that.

Fawcett on Julie Foudy:
Julie amazes me with how much energy she has and all the things she does off the field. Being the captain is so much work, and I have learned that from the little that I have done at the end here. I’m amazed by how much she did all these years as captain and how much fighting she had to do for this team and these players. She did it with a smile and a laugh always, and was an advocate for women’s soccer out there in the world. She has helped this game come so far, and it would not be where it is today without her.