Greater Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky Women’s Sports Association welcomes Olympic gold medalist
PHOTOS FROM YOUTH CAMP IN WEST CHESTER IN JULY OF 2012
Shannon Russell reports:
Three-time Olympic gold medalist Heather Mitts planned to end her illustrious soccer career after the 2012 Games in London, but discovered she couldn’t quite walk away from the sport.
Her ailing body finally convinced her to retire just last month.
“I had every intention of being done after the Olympics, but I just still loved playing. I wanted to start a family, but I also wanted to continue playing until that happened,” said Mitts, 34. “I went to (U.S. National Team) camp in March and had a slew of injuries. I thought, ‘OK, this is my body’s way of being done.’”
Mitts and her husband, former NFL quarterback A.J. Feeley, are now both retired and living in Philadelphia. But the St. Ursula Academy grad and recent University of Florida Hall of Fame inductee will be back in her hometown Tuesday as the keynote speaker at the Greater Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky Women’s Sports Association’s 20th anniversary awards dinner in West Chester.
Other area Olympians and Paralympians will be honored at the banquet, including Jenny Kemp (swimming), Barbara Weinstein McGrath (diving), Mary Wineberg (track), Keli Smith Puzo (field hockey), Emmy Kaiser (tennis) and April Kerely (swimming). Event officials will present awards to 26 local athletes, coaches, sponsors and administrators.
“I’m happy to be the speaker at the 20th anniversary awards dinner. It’s a great honor,” Mitts said. “I’m excited to meet other Olympians, too.”
Mitts said her retirement thus far feels like a long vacation with great opportunities, like the sports banquet and the two Philadelphia Union soccer matches she worked as a sideline reporter. She’ll conduct her annual CBTS Heather Mitts Soccer ProCamp at Lakota West Aug. 3 and 4, and for the first time will also have an evening-session elite camp for high schoolers.
Mitts’ retirement means she won’t compete in the new National Women’s Soccer League, but the former defender is optimistic that the fresh foray into women’s professional soccer will take root. Unlike previous short-lived leagues – the Women’s United Soccer League and Women’s Professional Soccer – the eight-team NWSL is supported by the United States Soccer Federation, Canadian Soccer Association and Federation of Mexican Football.
“Because of the fact that (U.S. Soccer) is taking the initiative to be involved, I do think it will succeed longer than leagues of the past. And by investing in a women’s professional league in the U.S., our players can train here on a daily basis,” Mitt said.
Mitts said it was bittersweet to finish her own career in London but “couldn’t have asked for a better way to go out.” Asked if she envisioned a return from retirement, Mitts promptly laughed.
“I will not be pulling a Brett Favre or Michael Jordan,” she said. “I want to start a family, and hopefully that happens here sooner rather than later.”
For information about the GCNKWSA banquet, which begins at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday at the Savannah Center, visit cincywomensports.org. To learn more about Mitts’ soccer camps, visit procamps.com/heathermittselite.