Mia Hamm on the U.S. team's strength
After the inspiring and dramatic U.S. victory over Brazil in the quarterfinals, I was asked by several people to describe what the "USA Mentality" is.
The very core of the U.S. mentality is ingrained in all of us as Americans from a very young age. We were all raised on the belief of the American Dream: That if you could dream it, and you worked hard and persevered, you could achieve anything.
This belief is woven into the fabric of our country, and helps lay the foundation for the core values of the U.S. Women's National Team. From my very first training session, I learned that our standards and the level of expectations were extremely high, and that they were never to be compromised. Comfortable was not a word in our vocabulary. As Brandi Chastain so eloquently stated, "… the success of the team is predicated upon the willingness to go beyond the normal or the good. That if you can do 10 sprints, why not 11. And if 11 is attainable, then certainly 12 is possible."
I can still hear our captain Carla Overbeck as we stood on the line for one of many fitness sessions, motivating us to push past the pain and the exhaustion (and to some degree, the doubt) by screaming, "Norway isn't doing this right now. They aren't willing to pay the price to be the best!" She was reaffirming what we all knew, that greatness comes to those who do not cut corners. Carla was also making an individual test into a team-building experience. Our team was only going to be as strong as its least-fit player.
It was critical that we all felt a personal responsibility to be our best, and to be accountable, not only to ourselves but to one another. We pushed each other to extremes in practice, out of respect and admiration for one another. I personally wanted to show my teammates that I was not only committed during a World Cup or the Olympic tournament; I wanted to prove it every single practice.
This belief, that no one and no team was going to beat us, was built from the long hours of hard work. We firmly believed that no matter the number of opponents, the quality of the players, the number of minutes on the clock, or the current score, together, we would find a way to win.