First Lady of U.S. soccer (cont.)
Posted: Friday January 18, 2008 11:59AM; Updated: Friday January 18, 2008 2:21PM
SI.com: Is there anything else that's good to know?
Hamm: For me, besides playing again and seeing everyone out there celebrating a game I love, at halftime we get to reunite marrow recipients with their non-related donors for the first time. That's a special and poignant moment. The first time I ever witnessed it, it had a huge impact on me. It's the highlight of this game for sure.
SI.com: You were recently on the committee that interviewed candidates and hired Sundhage. What was that role like from your perspective?
Hamm: Out of respect for the process and for the great candidates that we had, I'm not going to say I voted this way or that way, because it's not fair, not even going forward. But with regard to being part of the process, I felt it was important to have a player involved. It's a little bit harder for a current player to have a voice, but it was important to have someone who's been inside the lines, so to speak.
My focus was on representing the players, so a lot of my due diligence was talking to the players who played the last three years and really listening to them about going forward. I didn't just talk to veteran players. I talked to players who'd been there a long time, players who'd been there for maybe eight years, and players who'd just joined the team. Just to get their perspective. Then going outside and talking to coaches in America and abroad and saying, What do you see happening with this program? When you see the U.S. play, what are their strengths? What are their weaknesses? And then trying to make the best decision that I possibly could.
SI.com: So this sounds like it wasn't just a ceremonial position for you. You put in some serious time?
Hamm: Oh yeah. I took it very seriously. It was very emotional for me. You could ask Nomar. I spent a lot of time on it.
SI.com: What's your sense of the state of the U.S. women's soccer team right now?
Hamm: I haven't been out to training since Pia's been there. I saw the World Cup and talked to some players afterward, and they felt that they didn't play up to their potential. And watching the games, I felt for them. They're a great and extremely talented group of women who've worked so hard, and I'd go out to practices and see how hard they worked. I think the passion is there and the work ethic, but for some reason things didn't work out.
But it's also getting so much more competitive. You have to play your best every single match, and almost every single minute of every single match. I know in talking to them they're committed to first and foremost qualifying for the Olympics and playing better and achieving what they feel they can achieve, and that's a gold medal.
In watching them play, I didn't sit there for one minute and say I wasn't proud of them. I'm extremely proud of them. I love this game, I love that team, and I still have a lot of players on that team that I trained with, whether for a week or two years, and I'll always be cheering for them to do well. I'll do whatever they ask me to do to help them, whether it's being on the [coach] selection committee or talking to players or just watching from wherever I am.
SI.com: During the U.S. team's current tournament in China, Solo is back starting in goal. What's your sense of what happened involving her at the World Cup and where that is now that she's back with the team and playing?
Hamm: I heard things that probably you heard and read. Hope's a very talented goalkeeper. I saw the interview after the game. It's not something I would have done, and I've read things from Hope saying that she apologized, she's moving forward, and for her it's about proving herself every single day. I think we all had that approach when we were with the national team.
She obviously has a lot to prove to her teammates, and I think she's committed to doing that. I have so much confidence in Pia and how she's going to handle that situation, and it looks as if Hope's committed to that. But at the same time, it's like anything. Just as a team sits there and says we want to qualify and win the Olympic gold medal, you can't just say it once. You have to commit yourself to it every single day. I think Hope understands that, and I hope for her sake and the sake of the team -- because she is such a good goalkeeper -- that she does that.
SI.com: The news is out this week about the name of the new pro league, WPS (Women's Professional Soccer), and its launch in seven cities in '09. What are your feelings about the launch?
Hamm: I'm so excited about it for so many reasons. One is for all the players out there and young girls who want to play professionally to bring this back and give them the opportunity. I think it's going to strengthen the game in this country and the national team.
SI.com: I have to ask: With a league starting up again, do you have any interest in playing in the league?
Hamm: Noooooooo, Grant, I do not.
SI.com: Just thought I'd check.
Hamm: I don't. I'll help in other ways if they come and ask me to, but playing is not one of them.
SI.com: So how do you like this new life you have with Nomar and your twins out in the L.A. area?
Hamm: I'm very blessed, that's for sure. Nomar and I marvel at the girls every single day and feel so lucky. He is an amazing father, which I'm not surprised about. I don't know, everyone says it'll change your life, but I never realized how wonderful it would be. They make us laugh every single day.
Note: Hamm says tickets ($20) are still available for her charity event through Ticketmaster or the Home Depot Center box office.
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