On the Field - by Tracey Leone
CHICAGO (Wednesday, November 20, 2002) - Last Friday, U.S. Under-19 Women's National Team head coach Tracey Leone spoke at the Nike Fall '03 Sales Meeting in Miami, Florida, an event that brings together over 1,000 top management and sales representatives from across the country to present new product, educate sales reps and inspire Nike to continue its mission as the world's best sporting goods company. The theme of the weekend: "It's possible."
Leone was one of four speakers on the program for the big event of the weekend on Friday evening. Each speaker took one topic. For 1984 Olympic marathon winner Joan Benoit, it was "leadership." For Miami Dolphin Robert Edwards, who suffered numerous injuries in his career, it was "adversity." Leone spoke on "teamwork" and the topic for world's fastest man, Tim Montgomery, was "raw talent."
"I have to say it was a tremendous honor to be included in that group of speakers. I was in an exclusive crowd, and I was honestly not quite sure what I was doing there, but everyone I met was so nice and friendly and enthusiastic and sincerely interested in our story of the Under-19 World Championship. Everything about the event was totally first class. When Nike does something, they do it full out and this was no exception. The hotel was beautiful and the room that for the presentation was set up like a Broadway theater, curving around, and even though there were 1,000 seats, it was very intimate and it didn't seem like there were that many people. The event was on a huge stage and behind me during my speech on the whole back wall was a HUGE projected team picture of the U-19s, with the World Championship trophy and their medals. They had like seven big screen TVs scattered in front big photo wall with video footage, two of them were showing Lindsay Tarpley's winning goal over and over again, and then Tarpley's celebration, and two others were showing the bench running onto the field. All of this was going on behind me and I felt like a little tiny ant in front of all this great imagery.
"Joan Benoit was awesome. She was so incredibly nice and I couldn't believe I got to meet her. Her accomplishment from almost 20 years ago still has tremendous impact. She got a standing ovation from the crowd. Robert Edwards told a story of adversity in overcoming injuries and setbacks to be a successful NFL player. That one hit home because I know that in order to be great, you have to overcome adversity, and our 2002 U-19 World Championship team was a great example of that.
"I spoke next, and boy was I nervous. I walked on the stage without an introduction and just started talking. I love telling the story of our team and somehow I managed to condense it into a powerful, descriptive and vivid story in just four minutes! I had a teleprompter with my speech (I felt like the President), and I had a chance to practice at the rehearsal, so I was confident going up there. I met a lot of people during the day and everyone was excited about Nike and the event, so it really put me at ease to see people so interested in hearing these stories.
"Tim Montgomery, who recently set the world record in the 100 meters, spoke last, along with his girlfriend, Marion Jones, the world's fast woman. It was a bit more informal than the three previous speeches, but no less powerful. After the speeches, some dancers came on stage for a multimedia extravaganza to demonstrate Nike's new technology geared around movement. All, and all, it was overwhelming and one of the neatest things I've ever been to.
"But best of all, I got to tell the fairytale story of this special group of young ladies that accomplished greatness together. They had tremendous talent and athleticism, but what separated them from other teams was an extraordinary will to accomplish something that seemed so far away when we started. It was a dream and a mission and they lived every day by this rare creed that embodied the essence of a true team. They had the most positive Unity, Strength and Attitude (USA) and that elevated them from an ordinary team to an extraordinary one.
"I will never forget the team entering the stadium in front of the crazy, screaming, flag-waving Canadian fans. They loved that environment, embraced it in fact. It was just so fitting that this special group would reach a summit that few ever get to.
"I ended my speech with, 'My name is Tracey Leone and I had the honor of coaching this team.'"