Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Still Wondering About Next Generation

Dear Carla,

For a long time, I have been wondering about the next generation of U.S. women’s national team players. Well, here they are, and I’m still wondering.

Let’s say up front that I was and still am a big supporter of Mia Hamm, Carla Overbeck, Julie Foudy, Michelle Akers, Kristine Lilly, Joy Fawcett, Brandi Chastain and anyone else that played from 1996-1999. One of their greatest qualities was their leadership ability. Another was their sense of where they came from.

I’m sure you’ve read countless stories about the early days, the time when training camps were few and far between, travel was sketchy, accommodations were Spartan and morale was sky-high. There was a sense that everything they got, they earned. Nothing was handed to them. They had to fight for the simplest things – like uniforms or more than $10 a day per diem.

So I wonder sometimes about the new players. Do they truly get it? I don’t know, and I can only guess at the answer. I think Kate Markgraf, Christie Rampone, Cat Whitehill and Abby Wambach get it. Certainly Lilly gets it, so does Briana Scurry. The rest have just heard stories, and I’m not sure they truly know the history, responsibility and obligations associated with being on that team.

Something in the North Korea draw struck me as interesting. During the stoppage when Wambach was injured, Kristine Lilly pulled the team together and was very animated in her pep talk. Then the U.S. gave up two quick goals.

I am not -- and never will -- questioning Lilly's leadership abililty. I've seen for too long what a positive effect she has on a team whenever she opens her mouth. However, you have to wonder why the team did not respond to her, and in fact, did the opposite. I think their might be a softness in the group that didn't exist in the old days.

I hope they prove me wrong, and I’ll be quick to admit it when they do.

When I think of more, I’ll write.
You know who.

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