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World-Class Athlete: Do You Have What It Takes?
The following excerpt is from the book, Soccer Dreams, (a sports journalism bestseller at Amazon) which describes Leah Lauber’s true journey after the United States Women’s National Soccer Team, as a fan and junior journalist. of 12 years in history- making the 1999 Women’s World Cup. While the article is now dated and was written primarily for children, the lesson itself is timeless in outlining what it takes to be a world-class athlete.
Do you have what it takes to be a world-class athlete? Do you know what it takes? Well, if you don’t know, keep reading!
I recently attended the United States Women’s National Soccer Team practice at the Seminole Sports Training Center near Orlando, Florida as the team prepared for the Women’s World Cup, which began on Saturday and will continue until July 10.
The United States Women’s National Team is a great team. In 1998, their record was 22-1-2, losing only to Norway. Team USA won the Women’s World Cup in 1991, placed third in 1995 and won the gold medal in 1996 in the first ever women’s Olympic soccer competition.
When we arrived on the field, the team was already warming up and stretching. They worked on individual skills like juggling, volleys and heading.
Then they played reduced games like 4v2, playing to retain possession of the ball. The goal was to switch to defense as quickly as possible once a player lost the ball.
Then they worked on the art of “finishing” or scoring goals. They worked on several ways to attack the goal from different angles.
What impressed me the most was that the best women’s team in the world trained so hard! After training, I spoke to a few players.
“We know every other team plays their best when they play against us, so we have to be as good as we can be,” defender Brandi Chastain said.
Goaltender Briana Scurry added, “You have to work hard to stay the best.
“In order to achieve your goals and get where you want to be, you have to keep training,” striker Danielle Fotopoulos said. “I always train all year with a club team or do everything I can to improve.”
When players were younger, they sometimes had to miss parties, dances and sleepovers just to be able to play football. Most of us would consider these sacrifices, but they don’t, they chose to play for their love of the game.
The rewards are great for these world-class athletes: traveling around the world as a team, getting paid to play and competing in the Olympics.
“It was a dream come true for me,” Scurry said of winning gold at the 1996 Olympics.
“I dreamed of being in the Olympics since I was very young, so it was an incredible feeling for me. My family was there, my friends were there, we won it at home (in Atlanta), so it was just the most amazing experience.”
What’s the best thing about being on the national team? “I can play the sport I love every day with my best friends,” Chastain said.
“Relationships and friendships, we’re just one big family here,” Scurry said, “I can rely on the team for everything.”
Although they take their sport seriously, it’s not just work, work, work all the time for this team. During a water break, team members laughed, joked and threw water at each other. When the coaches called them to resume, it was instantly back to work. At the end of practice, players still had to attend a team meeting and train with weights.
“We try to work hard some days and other days it’s easy. It’s not hard work every day. It’s a high level of focus every day, but not physically hard, because we would just wear the team down,” coach Tony DiCicco said. said later. “It wouldn’t be fun to play and it must be fun to play.”
Of course, the fun part of soccer is playing the game, performing what you’ve practiced, and beating your opponents.
The following day, the team faced Brazil in an exhibition match.
I had passes that allowed me to be on the pitch during the game to take pictures and interview the players after the game (the other photographers there looked at me like I was just following my dad, but in fact, my father was accompanying me!
At that time, Mia Hamm had already equaled the record for most international career goals at 107. Players, media and more than 10,000 fans expected her to break the record that night. She had the chance to do it early in the game, but the goalkeeper saved her. Just at the end of the first half, Mia shot and scored the record goal. I was standing 15 feet away from her! IMPRESSIVE!!! After the referee whistled for halftime, Mia was interviewed by ESPN. As she walked into the locker room, I reached out and she patted my hand!
During the second half, the United States scored two more goals. The last goal was a set game exactly as they had practiced it the day before: a player crossed it from the left side above the goalkeeper to another teammate who directed it to the middle, where Tiffeny Milbrett converted the easy shot from five yards. This is the practice!
After the 3-0 win over Brazil, I was with a group of reporters and used my tape recorder to record Mia Hamm’s comments on her record 108th goal.
“It was a great ball coming from Cindy Parlow’s one-touch pass. She hit it outside because I was running forward. I didn’t hit it very well and I thought I was leaning back, but I guess I hit him through his legs, so I was lucky that one passed,” she said.
“It means a lot to me right now, but it will probably mean even more once I stop playing and think about my career. I love that I can be here and share it with my teammates – they are a big part of all those goals,” Hamm said. “The fact that they all ran on the pitch was awesome. They were telling me how proud they were of me.”
She signed my Mia Hamm jersey, as well as my copy of her book, Go for the Goal. I also had a binder signed by most of the other players.
Coach Tony DiCicco was sitting on the stairs eating pizza so, between slices, I asked him to sign the binder too. I laughed when her assistant said, “Here is the head coach of the best women’s team in the world, eating pizza on the stairs.
After finishing his late dinner, the coach talked about what makes a national team. “I’m looking for players with character, players I can trust when we’re not together as a team, they’ll work hard even on their own,” he said. “I’m also looking for players who have a special quality. Maybe they’re quick, maybe they’re leaders, maybe good headers on the ball, but they have to have a special quality. When you put all of those qualities together, you can kind of put the puzzle together.”
So now you know what it takes to be a world class athlete. If you want to be, get to work!
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