Angel City Football Club trailblazers on mindset, achieving goals, identity, and community

November 10, 2023

"My goal is not to get to this end X point. It's more to approach every single day less with a performance mindset and more with the learning mindset. But in turn, it garnered more results for performance."

Angel City Football Club General Manager Angela Hucles Mangano is a retired USWNT player, two-time Olympic gold medalist who oversees the sporting vision of the club, coaching and the first team, player care, medical and performance, sports science, soccer operations, and all wellness programs and resources.

Forward Madison Hammond joined Angel City FC in March, 2022, following a trade with OL Reign FC. She is the first ever Native American player in the NWSL.

For our Grand Time event series, both joined Anita Hossain Choudhry on Instagram to discuss the paradox of holding ourselves to high performance while giving ourselves the grace to make mistakes, plus navigating how to show up as our full, multi-dimensional selves.


First off, I want to do things in a Grand fashion: please introduce yourself in a way that you don't normally introduce yourself. That's the only instruction. What's a dimension of yourself that you don't usually share in your intro? 


The irony is you introduced me in the way that I normally never introduce myself: as a two-time Olympic gold medalist and former professional soccer player, for team USA and for Boston Breakers. It's something I'm extremely proud of and it is definitely part of my story and a large part of why I'm even doing what I'm doing today, but it's something that I don't get to until much, much later in the conversation. 


I love that. It's something that you share once you've built that trust and rapport with someone. What about you, Madison? 


Honestly, this is the hardest question. It goes into the concept of identity and how you want to be presented in a room. One way I don't normally present is: I'm a creative thinker and I always want to be in a room with people and draw energy from them and be collaborative. So, I think I should remind people: I'm a creative and I like to write and read and paint. No sports in that answer. 


It's a good reminder that we have choice, and we can be intentional about how we decide to introduce ourselves. It reminds us that we can make those deep connections if we are thoughtful about those other selves that we don’t normally get to share. 

First off, I wanna give a big congratulations. Angela, last year you said in The Athletic that the main focus and priority was to make it to playoffs—and you both did. How did that feel? 


Quite transparently, I have not really processed this full season yet. We just had our head coach announcement last week and we’re getting ready for planning for preseason next year. 

This was a goal from our first season: to make playoffs. It was technically aspirational because we were in our first year with players who had never played together, staff who had never worked together—all of this newness, all of this “for the first time.” 

For sports especially, the way that you bond and you gel, and all the chemistry that you have—it reflects itself in performance and on the playing field. That takes time. I am extremely proud of the players for their work and tirelessness, and the way that they have come together, and the staff for how they've supported the players on and off the field. 

Because of the high bar that we set off the field, and the splash that we made when we first came into this league—that was setting the stage for greatness, and the feeling was that we needed to replicate that type of greatness on the field. In sports, you feel like you're on this time clock. So, there is pride and excitement, but also relief, that we actually did this in a very short period of time. 


You absolutely should be proud of that. Madison, I want to hear your reflections on that too. 


Angela hits it on the head. Making playoffs felt like the first chapter completion of a two year project. We put ourselves in a really tough position to achieve that goal. What made it so much more special is that it was real bleak for a second. We were in a tough position and that forced us to look inwards as a team.

We had to pull it from somewhere. Even if you had to fake it, you had to show up every single day and come with an energy and with a mindset of: “We're going to win this weekend, because there's no other option.”

Teams can perform in that type of environment, when your back is against the wall. Now, I'm excited to see what we can do when we have a fresh slate, a fresh start—knowing that is the standard and that is what you have to continue to do, but to be able to do it in a way where we can be more expressive and not feel like every single week is so heavy. 

What we achieved is—it sounds so dramatic, saying “once in a lifetime or once in a career”—but, you don't always get those storybook moments of coming out on the other side with: “Yes, we made playoffs and we will look in the record books and it will always be us that made it in and we made it in on the final day.” It was so dramatic. It was one of the tightest tables that the league has seen to date. To be a part of that history, on top of making our own history as a club, was super special. 


I love how you paint that picture of: “It was heavy and it was the underdog story.” There was an expectation of greatness and I am so proud that you delivered on that, because one thing I noticed when I was at my first Angel City game was the palpable energy. How you all show up, how your fans and the community show up as well. As a mom of two little girls, what struck me most in person was all the little girls in the stand seeing who they can be.  I've never seen a sport like that. Thank you for all that you do to show up in that way. 

I want to touch on something that Angela said and then we'll shift back to you Madison. 

Angela, you said: it was the first time building the team. One of the biggest responsibilities you had was making sure that everyone was coming together, gelling, having this chemistry and working really well together. What has been your biggest learning over this past year on getting to that point of effectiveness and efficiency? 


I think the biggest learning is that it just takes time. That might sound really simple and obvious. Maybe it's because I'm a little bit of an inpatient person, and I want things to happen quicker, but it really does take time and it's about building trust. It's about understanding one another. It's about how we communicate. It's about how we effectively work together, how we can collaborate. Ultimately you need to allow space and create an environment for those things to happen. It takes time to actually get to a place where it's impactful. 

It doesn't mean you just have people in place and you get everybody together and then it's just done. Sometimes you need to make changes and you have to continuously work together on those things all the time. 

You have to work continuously to build culture. It's not just: our culture is great, it's set, and we just let it repeat. It will evolve over time, and you will have to adjust to what your current state is and where you've evolved to. 

You also mentioned supporting players both on and off the field, and that was a key part of it. Is there one thing that comes to mind that helped make the biggest impact or build that trust? 


It's all the things. Honestly, I'm still trying to continuously build that trust for where we are in this time and space as a league, as players and as staff.

Last season, we went through a revealing moment when the Yates report came out. A lot of us are dealing with past trauma. I sit in a position where I was a past player and I was involved and around a lot of things that came out in that Yates report, but I'm now in a position that a lot of players have been burned and scarred from. They can know me and see me in one light, but I still hold a certain position and title and I don't take that lightly. 

You earn trust, you earn respect, all the time. 

The more I can grow and evolve in those types of relationships very professionally, the more I can have impact in terms of that trust. It happens at different times with different individuals. Ultimately it has to be with everyone, all the staff, all of the players. I need to allow that time for it to happen and for other people to continue to work with me and be able to see that as well. 


You definitely have a unique position, having worn both hats and how to navigate that. 

Now I want to shift gears to Madison. You talked about mindset being critical in this and at The Grand we always talk about mindset and how that helps you get to where you want to go. As an athlete, how do you get your mind right ready for a game? 


What I learned the most this year in terms of my mindset is how much it's attached to routine and how much it's attached to making sure I'm continuously doing the things that I know I need to do for myself to be prepared. 

This was the first year that I was truly consistent in what that meant: how do I take care of myself before training? How do I make time for myself after training? How do I not even think about training and make sure I was doing all of those things consistently enough so that by the time I got to a game, I wasn't nervous?

I've dealt with different forms of anxiety throughout my entire professional career and this was the first year I was able to feel: “Alright, we're chill, things are good.” Obviously, some of that is tied to the fact that I had more of a playing role this year and that was making me super happy.

But at the same time, in the games where I wasn't playing, it was less about “Why am I not playing?” and attaching that to my value. I more so realized: these decisions are made and sometimes they have nothing to do with you. 

Especially as a young player, I've always been in this state of constant up and down. This was the first year I thought: “No, I'm going to control what I can control with the ups and downs. Everything else, whether or not it impacts me, is less in my control, but I've controlled what I can.” 

I've learned that mindset isn't just: “Are you making sure you're happy?” It's more so: are you controlling the things that impact your mood, your environment, the energy that you're around?


One of the things that has really impressed me about Madison: the choice and the decision that she makes and she continuously makes on the mindset that helped to prepare her for this season. She came into pre-season already having done work, already having made certain choices that led her to be successful in this season. 

When she's talking about that, it's not just on game day—her mindset has set her up for success for months and months, before she's even gotten to that moment. 

I love that you talk about the consistency and the things that are in your control and out of your control. A lot of times we differentiate between a performance mindset, where it's all about just winning, and a learning mindset, where you take on challenges for what you can learn from it. Madison, you said that a big shift in your mindset was giving yourself grace to make mistakes and fail. What was the most pivotal thing that made you realize that?


Putting myself in the shoes of doing the opposite. I could continue what I was doing: being super inconsistent in my routine on the field or off the field, continuing to feel bad about myself and attaching my value to soccer—or I could do the opposite.

A lot of young players in our generation are in this weird in-between time period. For so long, you just had to put up and be able to play or not, but now there is this environment where you want to really protect young players and there's a lot of emphasis on that. I’m right in between the two periods. I can see both sides and understand both sides and I’ve lived both of those sides. 

But in the same vein, a lot of it comes from yourself. Like Angela said, you just have to decide: are you gonna do it or are you not gonna do it? Are you gonna put yourself in the best position: to be uncomfortable and be okay with that? Or, do you want people to constantly tell you you're the best player, you're doing this amazingly, you're perfect at this? 

This year I came into this season and I went through a total position change. But I embraced that. My goal is not to get to this end X point. It's more to approach every single day less with a performance mindset and more with the learning mindset. But in turn, it garnered more results for performance. 

I went in more so thinking: “Okay, I'm here in this training session. What are we trying to accomplish in just this five minute game?” If I can do that, then I can move on to the next. Then it was building on that instead of worrying: “Am I gonna play? Am I gonna start?” That was a lot more helpful for me this year. That also just comes with maturity…just a little bit of maturity! 

Training sessions don't make or break your career. They don't make or break your life. If you approach training as: I'm going to win this training session, then you build on those. 


Yeah, if you keep chasing that one moment, then you're not going get to where you wanna go. It’s about consistency and building on those great habits. Also, I just want to commend you. It's hard to talk openly about all of this, especially, the mental space that you're in or the anxiety that you have. Especially as an athlete, sometimes you feel the need to say that everything's going great, we're really crushing it. I commend you just for being open about the self-talk that you have sometimes and where your head space is. Open conversation makes everyone better, because you're giving them a role model: it's okay to be honest about where you're at. 


I always shoot straight. I'm very incapable of not just cutting straight to the point. 


It's going to make such an impact on so many people, more than you probably know today, so thank you for that. 

Angela, you talked about mindset too, and one thing that you talk about is connecting with your why. Can you share a little bit more about that and tell us: what is your why? 


It's really important. I listened to Simon Sinek and his TED talk about connecting to why. I shared it with the staff earlier in our season. I think it's highly important because it is about that self-talk. It is about what you're telling yourself every single day, especially when things are challenging. 

Connecting to why ultimately helps us understand the reasons that we have certain behaviors and take certain actions to reach our ultimate goals. It shows up even more in the challenging moments.

For me, my why is still: how we can shift and change this game of football for women, for the better. I’m still very attached to how we shift the narrative on gender equity and the pay gap. 

When we talk about salary caps, we have more visibility now with player salaries in our league—that was shared publicly. There’s free agency, where players now for the first time in this league are able to have a choice over their career path. 

When you start to say these things out loud, it's crazy that it's taken this long to get here, but ultimately, it's not all easy or very straightforward. We need to start navigating and understanding how we can create a better space and environment for the players. 

I come from a time and place where things looked completely different, when there weren't investment dollars, when there wasn't marketing, when there wasn't visibility. What I learned from my experience on the US national team, from my captains and leaders and the Julie Foudy’s and Mia Hamm’s: the way they operated in leadership was from the standpoint of what was going to be best for the team collectively, and not even for that team. It was benefiting all the players that were playing. There is an element of my why that will always be to make a better space for women and for women footballers specifically, and how they can just play soccer and not have to worry about all the other bullshit that they have to deal with.


Thank you for taking on such a big goal and mission. I can see how you're already changing the game for people right now and for generations to come. You're creating a movement and it's incredible to hear you speak about it. Yes, it's taken far too long, but it's incredible to see how many strides you've made already and where you're going to go from here. 

I want to chat a little bit about identity. Madison, I'll start with you. There was a profile where you shared some quotes that really stuck out to me. One was you said: “I didn't even know I was the first Native American player in the NWSL, I'm just Madison.” 

The second is a quote from your mother and she said: “The great thing about being American Indian is the communities they really embrace you.” 

I'm curious, how do you describe the difference between you as just Madison and then how your community sees you, and how that's made an impact on you? 


It silos itself out. When I go home and I'm in my home community, how I can present and identify is very different than when I'm here with my team or here in LA. That's just because of a level of understanding. It even just comes down to things you talk about, and the food you eat, and the music you listen to, and the memories you share—those things you don't have to explain. That's true for anybody and their familial dynamics. In order for people to understand me and who I am and where I come from and my background, it requires more questioning and more conversation than when you're at home. That’s the biggest difference. 

When I just say “I'm just Madison,” I mean that those lived experiences are a composite of who I am as a person. It's less: “She's a soccer player and she's also a Native American, so we have to talk to her about being a Native American because it's plastered on her forehead.” That shouldn't be the only attraction to my story.

When my name comes with this nomer of: “You're the first Native American”, with blinking lights and arrows – “She's the only one, first one,” then it's a whole thing as opposed to just a reality. 

But, it should inspire somebody, because my story had to look a little bit different to get to the same point. I'm trying to get to a place where people can understand that my experiences and how I got to the same point are very different from a lot of my peers, and a lot of the obstacles and things that I've experienced are different from other people’s, but it's not unique to only my experience. 

I have trials, I've got tribulations, but other people do too. Mine just look different because they've come from a place of what I didn't understand at the time. I used to think, “I've always played soccer. I've always played at the highest level and the best club teams and going to a really good college.” But I didn't realize it took X amount of work as other people that got to the same point. 


One thing that it reminds me of is one of the Grand principles we have: we come together as humans. We don't care about titles and roles and we really care about you and who you are and your story and I think you hit the nail on the head. It's not just that one part of your identity that makes you who you are. You are multidimensional. This is you as a human and your story serves to inspire so many people who look like you or not, who can relate to the challenges that you faced. 

For you Angela, I'm curious, you know, you talked a little bit about in that interview about switching hats a bit in your career. You said you've played as forward your whole life and then you’ve played as a midfielder. Could you share a little bit about what that meant and how you think about your identity in that role? 

It’s a blessing and a curse to be able to do a lot of different things.

You can have this versatility tag on you, which could be really beneficial in sports. Sometimes it's not, because a coach might be looking for a specialist to do one thing. I think your ability to embrace your abilities is ultimately what helps set you apart. Growing up, I played forward for the most part. 

It wasn't until I became a professional that I was switched to a midfielder. Then in a time where I was needed to play forward, it was on the largest stage – the 2008 Olympics. I was asked to not only change my role. I was more of a bench player, change maker coming off the bench and then starting as a forward. 

Being able to adapt and have that versatility has ultimately served me well, including my career path after playing. I've done so many different things: from nonprofit work to advocacy, to board work, to for-profit, very commercial corporate things, to now being in this position, and my job and my role is to be able to manage and do a variety of different things. 

Being able to accept who you are and accept what things you can bring to different environments has helped me to transition into this role a little bit more seamlessly. My day-to-days look completely different from where they start and they end. 

My role also looks different across this league. Everybody in this league and in the different clubs who have held this title, their jobs look drastically different even than mine. It's been a fun experience for me. 


At The Grand, our mission is to make the world a less lonely place. We believe that no one should walk through life alone, especially when you're going through big work and life challenges. How has community played a role in helping you get to where you want to be? 


Community is a huge part of why I've even got to this point. The word community is pretty vast. In moving to LA and Angel City, I have built a community in a bunch of different spaces. Having friends is one community. Having family is one community. 

My team has become a community. LA is so big, so massive. We have no time to have a social life most of the time, so it's really beneficial when you like your teammates. I've been fortunate to truly love my friendships with my teafmmates, be able to grow them and use their experiences both on the field and off the field to take shortcuts. I'm always like: “Give it to me, gimme all the knowledge, I'll take everything.”

Community is a way to learn. I feel like it's learning about yourself, what you want to be around, who you want to be around, but also: what can I learn from the people around me? 

At Angel City, one thing I've always commended about our club is we have people who allow us to tap into our fan community. Our fan community is what propels us on the field specifically, but off the field too, seeing how much of an impact we have on their lives. I see people on Twitter get tattoos of our numbers and I'm just like, “Y'all crazy.” But at the same time, it’s this complete unconditional devotion to us as players and what we can bring to them on the field... We get to perform for them once a week, but it has so much more of a lasting impact on them than any of us realize individually. 

Not a lot of other teams in the league have that constant unwavering support no matter what. It doesn't matter if we're losing, it doesn't matter if we're winning—it doesn't matter. Even this year is a perfect example. We were the only ones that didn't give up on us. I know our fans at some point were like, “We're really not giving up—but please!” That resilience within our fan community allows us to always have a why. Even if you don't know it in your own self, there's always one person that is a fan, in the game, in the stands, that you, we can be playing for it's pretty cool. 


Being on the fan side of this, you're giving fans a way to be a part of something bigger than themselves. It's incredible. Angela, how would you say that community has impacted you? 


Community's everything. It was pretty much the founding pillar for Angel City.

Within community there's power, there's strength, there's support and a little bit of what Madison said: there's an element of a sense of self as well. Because of that learning and being a part of a community, you can learn more about yourself.

That's beautiful and powerful when that happens. I've relied heavily on my community. I don't think anyone achieves anything in this world without a community and without others. 

Whether that is going home to my family at the end of a workday and seeing my two little ones and being grounded with family, or the Angel City community itself. Completely outside of that, it's important to identify communities that strengthen you and who you are, because ultimately you are better for the community because of it. 


That's beautiful. I resonate deeply, having two little girls as well. You can't be in a bad mood when they say “I love you.” It's everything. 

A question from the community: do you both have a framework for achieving and setting your goals? If so, what is it? 


I'm terrible at goal setting, but the framework for me is: (1) the routine of sitting and writing them down and (2) making things palpable and visible is helpful. 

I usually try to have a routine of writing two to three things down, whether it’s I want to go to yoga 10 times before the end of the next three months, or whether it’s subjective and not measurable, but more feeling based. 

I remember I sat down in the middle of the season and wrote down: “I want to have two goals and two assists by the end of the season.” I achieved half of that. I thought, “Wow, isn't it crazy when you write things down?” 

This past year I did one of those vision boards where you sit there and cut out things in magazines and you put it on a poster board. Afterward, you put it somewhere where you can see it every day, and you don't have to think about it, but you just see it every day. I truly think that it grounds you in the reality of: these things are attainable. 


I love the visualization one in particular, because what's great about visualization is it actually fires off neurons in your brain and creates new neural pathways to help you get to where you want to go. If you can conceive it, it is within you. 

Angela, what about you? 


I definitely use the SMART goal process: specific, measurable, having a time element – getting really granular., I definitely use the visualization type of process too. 

Some of this teaching comes from Atomic Habits that I'm reading right now by James Clear, but what I ‘ve learned about myself is to make things very easy to do that habit that you want to do. It's about how you create that process. Madison talked about it earlier. She’s getting into a routine.

The habits that you form and the process that you have is where I like to focus. It’s helpful for both yourself and for large groups to achieve goals.

It is about mapping out a plan and having clarity around that, and everyone understanding what their role is so that we can look month to month, we can look day to day about this and understand how to show up. 

Being able to map out a good plan with timelines, making sure we can measure it and have accountability to it and using that SMART goal process is something that I definitely rely on. 


You both strike me as very reflective people and that's a huge part of it too. Often we are just going on autopilot, running through our days. Having that time to pause and reflect and write things down is important. As Rei mentioned in the chat, you're 9.5 times more likely to achieve a goal when you write it down. 

Last thing: you both are so inspirational. What would you tell your younger self if you could? 


Two years ago I found this quote that said: “don't stop 'til you're proud.” That is something I would definitely tell my younger self. Because there were definitely moments where I felt I could have done more and obviously, things worked out. I got where I wanted to go. But maybe things would've been easier if I had been a little less scared, a bit more brave, or not as scared to take risks. 

When you're proud of yourself, you can feel it. It gives you this aura of confidence.

I'm hyper competitive. I want to be the best at everything. I want all of those things, everything elite. I have very high standards for myself. That desire and drive to achieve excellence, the subjectivity of the word proud – how would I feel proud of myself? It can change so many different times. I have tried to adopt that quote more and live it. If you didn't do enough or if you did enough, you would know, because you would feel it. 

That is something that I would've told my younger self, because it probably would've made me a lot less stressed as a younger child. 


I think I would have a novel that I would want to give my younger self. A lot of it is: you will never get it all done.

It's something I'm still learning. I'd tell myself to spend more time in that joy of the journey, because you aren't gonna get it all done. 

And, just to keep on going. It's not about wins or losses, it's not about failures. I still love the Oprah Winfrey quote. It's not a failure, it's just pushing you in another direction. For me, it’s reminding the younger self—and current self—to keep going. Life is a continuous growth journey. Less focus on the accomplishments and getting things done, but keep enjoying that journey and that process. 


Another ritual that we like to do at The Grand close out with gratitude, because research shows that being grateful and sharing your gratitude leads to higher levels of wellbeing. If you could both can lock in the thing that you're most grateful for right now… Angela, I'll start with you. 


I'm grateful for players and people like Madison. I learn from players like you and people like you. It's a special and unique opportunity that I have to witness a lot of people's individual growth and journey. It's massive. 


I'm grateful for this year. It feels like a year of a true foundation for me personally. I feel so much gratitude for what it has signified for my career so far, but also what it can signify for moving forward. Feeling just all the feels about this year. 


I feel all the feels about this conversation. Thank you both so much for joining today and for keeping it real, for sharing so many nuggets of wisdom and being such an inspiration. I don't know if you saw in the comments, but Angela, you're a boss. Madison, you're a boss. 


Wait, what are you grateful for? We have to go around full circle here.


I have to say my daughters. It's what I reflected on before. My two and a half year old, the other day, unprompted, came to me and said: “Amma (mom in Bengali) you are confident, you are friendly and you are so beautiful.” Blew my mind. She just came up with it herself. 


Tears, instant tears. 


We do affirmations and so maybe she learned it from that. But that's the thing that I'm most grateful for in this moment.

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