(Image courtesy of SI.com)
Heather Mitts is a professional soccer player and two-time Olympic gold medalist. Heather attended St. Ursula Academy in Ohio, played college soccer for the University of Florida, and now plays professionally for the Atlanta Beat of Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS). She is also a member of the United States Women's National Soccer Team.
Off the playing field, Mitts has worked as a studio analyst for ABC & ESPN during the 2003 FIFA Women's World Cup and was a sideline reporter for MLS matches in 2005. Additionally, she also was a sideline reporter for NCAA football during 2005 for ESPN.
Q & A
Q: What type of teams were you playing on while growing up -- club, regional, and/or high school?
A: I grew up in Cincinnati and started playing club/travel soccer in the 3rd grade. My high school, St. Ursula Academy, had a highly competitive team so I'd play club in the spring and summer.
Q: Were you attending camps, or college showcases with any of your teams?
A: Things are very different today but ODP was my best option to be seen by the top coaches. I also attended college camps every summer, which gave the college coaches an opportunity to see me at a young age.
Q: When did you start getting interest from coaches?
A: Not until sophomore and junior year but I realize things are very different these days.
Q: Were you sending out letters and highlight reels?
Q: What role did you club coaches/high school coaches have in helping you get recruited?
A: Not much actually, other than playing me and allowing me to be seen.
Q: How active were your parents in the process?
A: They steered me in the right direction and lent advice when necessary.
Q: While in high school, what was your thought process about furthering your career in soccer and playing collegiately?
A: After my freshman year, I decided I wanted to completely dedicate my time and efforts towards trying to receive a college scholarship for soccer.
Q: How did you ultimately wind up choosing University of Florida?
A: I went on all of my official visits but ultimately made my decision based on which school suited me best athletically, and academically. I thought about what would happen if soccer didn't work out for me (based on injuries or the load), and felt I'd be happiest at the University of Florida. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.
My recruiting trips let me experience college and get a feel for what the school had to offer. I really had no intention of going to UF because it was so far away from home. After my trip though, I completely changed my mind. I couldn't have imagined going anywhere else.
Q: How many schools did you officially visit?
A: All 5. Aside from the University of Florida, I was also considering the University of Tennessee, Indiana University, the University of Kentucky, George Mason, and Maryland.
Q: What were the most important qualities of a school and athletic program that you were looking for?
A: That it was strong academically. I also looked at the majors offered, size of the classes and the support offered by the athletic program. At UF, they monitored my attendance, grades, study hall and offered tutors for extra assistance. The watchful eye is always a positive for a freshman or sophomore living on his/her own.
Q: Can you describe the feeling of helping the Gators win their first ever-national soccer championship?
A: Honestly, I felt like I was in a dream. We were heavy under dogs that beat one of the best UNC teams of all time…in the 4th year of our program’s existence.
Q: Do you consider that win the biggest accomplishment of your soccer career?
A: It’s a toss up between the NCAA Championship and the 2008 Olympics. We were both underdogs but we were the closest knit teams I've ever been a part of. Shows the true power of teamwork.
Q: What tips do you have for a high school student today who wants to play a sport in college?
A: Ok here goes…
Playing in college will be one of the best experiences of your life, but it’s a job. The more dedicated and professional you become now, the more it will pay off long term.
Eat right. Drink lots of water. Get your rest. And take care of your body.
Every time you step on the field -- whether it’s practice or a game, give it your full effort. Be passionate and love what you do.
To make it to the top requires a lot of hard work, and that means missing out on some of life's luxuries, such as parties and dances. They seem very important at the time, but believe me it’s all about the big picture. Being a college athlete is one of the best experiences of your life. It’s worth it!