Our Game. Our Stories.
The essence of soccer is captured in the fact that it connects a wide variety of people in a dynamic way. As we celebrate our 20th anniversary, we are profiling 20 individuals who have made a significant impact on the game of soccer or who have been impacted by soccer in a positive way. Here, we will show you the diversity of the beautiful game and how it connects everyone as one universal team...Together, We Are Soccer.
This is our game and these are our stories. Be sure to visit our site every week to see who we feature next!
After 17 years, two World Championships and two Olympic Gold Medals, Mia Hamm retired from professional soccer in 2004 as one of the best women’s soccer players in history and as one of the most important and recognizable female figures in the history of sport. Appearing in her first match for the U.S. Senior Squad at just 15 years old in 1987, Hamm went on to guide the United States to gold at the 1996 Olympic Games and the now iconic 1999 Women’s World Cup. Hamm was twice awarded the ESPY for Female Athlete of the Year (1998 and ’99) and was twice named FIFA Women’s Player of the Year (2001 and ’02). She was one of only two women named by Pele to FIFA’s best 125 players in 2004. In 2007, Hamm was elected to the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
Since retiring from the professional game, Hamm has maintained an active presence within the soccer community and has served as an outspoken advocate for Title IX and gender equality across sporting lines. She now runs the Mia Hamm Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to raising funds and awareness for families in need of a marrow or cord blood transplant and the development of more opportunities for young women in sports.
Who encouraged you to start playing soccer? Do you have a favorite childhood memory of the game?
I guess it would be my dad and my older siblings. They were old enough to sign-up and play and I wanted to be just like my older brother, Garrett, so if that is what he was doing then I wanted to do it too.
Your foundation, the Mia Hamm Foundation, is committed to increasing opportunities for young women and girls to participate in sports. How can team sports like soccer positively impact young female athletes?
Sports and especially team sports can teach you so much about life. I learned how to set goals, build my self-confidence, teamwork, communication, and problem solving all with help of soccer and other team sports.
What kinds of sports opportunities were available for girls in your community when you were a kid?
Most of the sports teams were co-ed. It wasn't until I was 12 years old that my town had an "all-girls" team. I grew up competing alongside boys.
Through programs like Soccer for Success, we are committed to providing kids with caring mentors and coaches. As a young athlete, who did you look up to? Was there a particular coach or mentor who made a significant impact on your life?
Growing up, I looked up to my parents and my brother. My parents set a really great example for me and my siblings about being an active member in your community. My collegiate and first national team coach, Anson Dorrance had a huge impact on my soccer career. He really put me in an environment to grow and push myself as an athlete.
With two World Cup titles and two Olympic gold medals, you helped bring unprecedented visibility and popularity to the game here in America. How have you seen the game grow and change over the last 20 years? What do you envision for the game in the next 20 years?
The game has changed in so many wonderful ways over the past 20 years. You see more and more opportunities for young boys and girls to experience the game. Club soccer is booming in the US and US Soccer has made an even greater commitment to the women's side in their increased support for the Youth National Teams and the development of the NWSL. I hope that the next 20 years brings continued growth and focus to the game and that it allows more young people to find empowerment and enjoyment through it.
Looking back on your career, what’s one thing you know now that you wish you had known as a young player?
To enjoy it more. I am far too serious at times.