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Tips from the US Women's Team

December 31, 2003 09:00 PM
 
Mia Hamm is the world's top women's soccer player. Her 117 international goals entering Saturday's game against Iceland at Ericsson Stadium are an all-time record, male or female. A former All-American at North Carolina, she still lives in Chapel Hill and is an assistant coach for the Tar Heels. Aside from her considerable soccer skills, Hamm is known for her intense competitiveness and single-minded will to win on the field.
"I was born with that. To some extent it's based on the people who I have played with during my career, players like April Heinrichs, Carla Overbeck, Kristine Lilly and Michelle Akers. You either compete or you don't last. I learned that through them, and it really added to my game."
Hamm's desire for more goals and more championships remains. She says there's always another level to reach for, no matter how much you've accomplished.
SCORING
Tiffeny Milbrett is the fourth-leading goal scorer in U.S. soccer history, with 68 coming into this weekend. She let the team in scoring during last year's World Cup with three goals. Her knack for scoring makes her one of the team's most valuable players, especially during a close game.
"It's what I'm meant to do. I want to score goals. It's something I really want to do and am able to do. It's been something I've been blessed with and have been lucky with, and I've kept going. My coaches have told me you can't make a goal scorer, but when I come in or start, I try to really step it up, try to be in the right place when I need to be there. You need to find a corner or a spot and make a decision of where you're going to hit that ball. And put it there, place it there, make it a nice pass there. Sure, hit if firmly, but you don't need to have a lot of juice on it. And more times than not it's going to go in."
DETERMINATION
Goalkeeper Briana Scurry's save of a penalty kick in the U.S.'s World Cup championship game against China opened the door for Brandi Chastain's winning shot. Scurry had already had a great World Cup, allowing only three goals and recording four shutouts. Staying mentally tough is a Scurry trademark. She has to keep her mind in the game while her teammates have the ball at the other end of the field. She also watches what the opposing players are doing.
"I haven't done my job if I've played well and then allow a goal in the 88th minute. If you have a breakdown then, the rest of the game doesn't even matter. (To keep you mind in the game) visualize what's going to happen when the ball's at your end. I've always been mentally taught, I'm the youngest of nine kids, and when I was a kid, my parents would call me in, but I wanted to stay out and try to keep up."
LEADERSHIP
Julie Foudy has been the team's co-captain with Carla Overbeck since 1991. Foudy had 172 appearances for the national team. She was her team's captain in club soccer, high school and college. She is one of the team's most vocal players, and is usually its spokeswoman when dealing with the coaches or media.
"I was really young (20) when I became captain. Maybe it was because I was the loudest. A lot of what I learned about leadership is having your finger on the pulse. (Our coaches') style is to have a lot of feedback from the captains, about what's happening with the team. The best leadership style you can have is when you're always in tune with those around you. Always first and foremost, though, is what's best for the team. I was always the competitive, feisty kid who wants to be the one doing it, not the one who's following. I'd be the one when I was a kid following around with the boys and always kicking their butts."
FITNESS
Former North Carolina player Kristine Lilly has played in more international games-198-than anyone else in history, male or female. Her longevity can be attributed to her willingness to work hard and stay in shape.
"My biggest thing about fitness is when I see players who work hard, I respect that. That's the one thing you can control, but you can always be fitter. If I'm fit, I can do all those things on a soccer field better. I can make that run, or I can score that goal. It's the backbone of my game. My coaches have told me you're going to get beat in any sport if you aren't fit. I can be beaten on the soccer field by somebody dribbling, but next time I'm going to run her into the ground. I never wanted to be tired. I wanted to be the last one standing. At practice, make the most of it. Put in 100 percent in those two hours, then go have fun."
Article courtesy of the Charlotte Observer, available online at Charlotte.com
 
 

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