We Want Answers: Heather Mitts

Retired soccer star and sideline reporter for the Philadelphia Union talks about why she loves Philly and the child she and husband A.J. Feeley are expecting in February.

Heather MittsYou retired last spring with an announcement on Twitter. How did it feel when you hit “send”?

It was tough. It was a long time coming. I think it was the right time, but it’s always hard to walk away.

We always hear that retired athletes miss the competition. True for you?
Ironically, I’ve been on the sidelines for a couple of games, and I haven’t really missed being out there. I miss more than anything the camaraderie and my teammates and traveling—everything that goes along with playing. I don’t see myself playing soccer ever again, and I’m okay with that.

Are you doing anything to keep the competitive juices flowing? Or is it just time to lie back on the couch and relax after all these years?
[laughs] No, no, no, I definitely have found another avenue. A.J. [Feeley, Mitts’s husband] and I do CrossFit about four or five times a week.

Is A.J.’s NFL career over?
He’s done.

Does that make it easier in terms of dealing with retirement?
Yeah, it couldn’t have worked out any better, honestly. He was able to go over to the Olympics with me and support me during that last phase. And now that we’re both officially done, we are finally, for the first time in our 11 years of being together, able to spend time together.

You’ve had lots of great moments in your career—the World Cup, three Olympic gold medals. What stands out the most?
The two that top the list are, first, winning the national championship at the University of Florida—just being that we were huge underdogs. And the other was the 2008 Olympics. I was just coming back from an ACL injury in 2007. To start to play and help my team win the gold medal in 2008—those are the highlights.

Where do you keep your gold medals?
Nowhere special. I hide them, at the moment. I’m a little superstitious about the whole thing.

So you’re not using them as coasters.
[laughs] No, nothing fun.

You’ve gotten as much attention for your looks over the years as for your game. Was there much resentment about that from your teammates?
I mean … you can’t please everybody. There’s always going to be people out there that think you’re in it for the wrong reasons. But I’ve always made sure that I’m making the right decisions for me personally and for my family. And I definitely take into consideration that a lot of young girls look up to me.

How did you become a sideline reporter for the Union?
Nick Sakiewicz [the Union’s CEO] contacted me back when I was playing and was interested in me doing sideline. At that point I was nowhere near being done, but I knew that it was something that I would definitely embrace. And it just so happened that A.J. and I just kept throwing around the idea of moving back to Philly.

What do you like about Philly?
We’ve lived so many different places, and we actually have this amazing house in San Diego. But we just kept saying, where are we going to end up? Somehow Philadelphia always just kept coming up in the conversation. A.J. had a lot of job opportunities. We’ve always loved the city; we have a lot of friends here.

That’s all I need to ask. Thanks.
Can I say one more thing? We haven’t really announced it officially, but we’re expecting a child in February.

Congratulations! Boy or girl?
We’re not going to find out. We’re going to be surprised.

This story originally appeared in the October 2013 issue of Philadelphia magazine.