- ‘I Applaud the Women for What They’re Doing.’ Mia Hamm on How to Close the Wage Gap, On and Off the Field
- Thank you!
- Back in spotlight, U.S. great Mia Hamm set for roles at AS Roma, LAFC
- FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™
- Major honours
- Born with a club foot to becoming World Football Hall of Fame’s first woman inductee, the story of Mia Hamm
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- Mia Hamm
- Catching the Bug
- Record Breaker
- Celebrity Treatment
- On a Winning Team
- WUSA Pioneer
- Awards and Accomplishments
- SELECTED WRITINGS BY HAMM:
- FURTHER INFORMATION
- TBT: Remember When Mia Hamm Played Goalie At The Women’s World Cup?
- Soccer Legend Mia Hamm On Women’s Sports, Her Heroes And Raising Kids
- Mia Hamm on Why Girls Playing Sports Is So Important
‘I Applaud the Women for What They’re Doing.’ Mia Hamm on How to Close the Wage Gap, On and Off the Field
It’s raining so hard in New York that the TV sets at a World Cup watch party in an East Village bar stop functioning during the U.S. women’s national team’s group stage match against Sweden. Soccer legend Mia Hamm — a two-time Olympic gold medalist and two-time World Cup champion — has a cocktail in hand as she anxiously awaits the livestream’s return.
“I’m so excited to watch this game today, so when I’m doing my interviews, I’ll have one eye on the game, if not both,” she had told me over the phone that morning. Thankfully, the TV connection returns in time for Hamm to watch the U.S. win.
But the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup — during which the U.S. team has already broken records for the most goals in a Women’s World Cup game and the highest margin of victory with a 13-0 defeat against Thailand — is about more than just the sport itself.
When 28 members of the U.S. women’s team filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) in March, citing unequal treatment compared with the men’s team, Hamm felt a huge sense of pride, but also frustration. This was the same issue she brought up with management 20 years ago, shortly after the women’s team won the 1999 World Cup.
Renegotiating the players’ contracts ahead of the 2000 Summer Olympics, Hamm says the federation had “different standards and views of success for the women’s team as opposed to the men’s team” — a concept which she says “made no sense to us.” After a standoff that saw all the senior players on the team rejecting an initial contract offer — and boycotting a tournament in Australia — the team signed a deal, which their lawyer, John Langel, told the New York Times was fair. “We feel we reached equality,” Langel said at the time.
But today, the women’s players are still fighting for equal treatment. Though the men’s team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, while the women’s team has won three titles since 1991, “USSF has utterly failed to promote gender equality,” according to the case complaint filed this March. The complaint alleges that the federation “has admitted that it pays its female player employees less than its male player employees … The USSF admits to such purposeful gender discrimination even during times when the WNT earned more profit, played more games, won more games, earned more championships, and/or garnered higher television audiences.” A spokesperson for USFF denied these allegations in an email to TIME, adding that the organization does provide “fair and equitable pay.”
Mia Hamm, #9 of the USA, kisses the World Cup Trophy after the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup final played against China on July 10, 1999 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. David Madison—Getty Images
Hamm is thrilled that the team, including Alex Morgan, Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd, have become high-profile advocates for pay equality. “I applaud the women for what they’re doing,” Hamm says. “I support them in their stance.”
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Hamm says the men’s team has historically been the priority in terms of hiring (and paying enough for) the best coaches, working on developing talent and creating more youth programs around the country. “It’s not just about closing the pay gap. It’s about overall investment in the programs,” she told the crowd on that rainy Thursday during a halftime question and answer session with Ashley Louise, the co-founder of Ladies Get Paid, a non-profit that works to close the wage gap and help women advance and succeed professionally.
Things may be looking up, though. U.S. women’s national team players can now receive salaries of around $170,000 from the federation if they also play in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL), which USSF helps finance. (The U.S. offers no such base pay to the men, since they can earn contracts playing in pro leagues that are far more lucrative than the NWSL. According to the federation, the men are eligible for higher per-game bonuses because the organization pays them on a per-game basis, as opposed to a salary). Women’s players from around the world have fought their federations for more equitable treatment. As social media and sports networks highlight the successes of ascendant women’s teams like Spain — home to a traditional men’s power — Hamm says this might be a turning point for global investment women’s soccer. “Imagine if they could even 50 percent of what they give the men’s and young boys across the world, into the women’s game,” Hamm says.
It’s with this in mind that she’s working with Ladies Get Paid and Johnnie Walker’s equal pay initiative. The booze company has a special edition bottle of whiskey called Jane Walker, marking “the first major change of the brand’s Striding Man logo in over a century,” as part of its efforts to support women’s progress, a spokesperson for the brand told TIME. The Johnnie Walker and Ladies Get Paid partnership is hosting World Cup watch parties around the country.
Mia Hamm at the Jane Walker by Johnnie Walker Equalizer Watch Party in NYC supporting equal pay. Jose Silva
Just like her 1997 “Michael vs. Mia” Gatorade commercial, where Hamm showed Michael Jordan that anything he could do, she “could do better,” Hamm wants to inspire a new generation of girls to own their power. “The movement has just started,” Hamm told the crowd, made up almost entirely of women.
As the women’s soccer team fights for pay parity, Hamm hopes to continue a broader conversation off the field. As of May 2019, women in the U.S. still make an average of 80 cents for every dollar paid to men, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families. Part of closing that wage gap will depend on encouraging women to be “advocates for themselves,” Hamm says, but also on corporations placing women in positions of power. “We need women at higher levels of leadership to be consistently in the conversation in terms of how companies and corporations want to lead,” Hamm says, adding that companies do better when they have women in executive roles.
For women in the U.S. who are currently paid less than their male counterparts — a feeling female athletes know well — Hamm says that it’s easy to feel defeated. But when in that position with USSF two decades ago, the soccer star put grievances aside to focus on the cause. “For every young girl that was sitting in the stands, wanted them to know that their value was just as great as the young boy that was there, or their brother,” she says.
Now, as a mother of two adolescent daughters and one son, gender equality is something Hamm and her husband, retired Boston Red Sox All-Star shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, work to instill in their kids. “My girls are very strong, and it’s who they are, but it’s also the environment that my husband and I are raising them in,” Hamm says. Raising their son to respect and value women is just as important to Hamm and Garciaparra, who have taught him to “view women in his life as equal and deserving and that they should be able to follow their dreams,” she says.
The U.S. is up against home team France on Friday, and the team and federation have agreed to mediate the gender discrimination lawsuit after the World Cup, which ends July 7. Hamm is excited at the prospect of the suit resulting in an agreement that gives more to the women. “That basically steps in and says, ‘Listen, we are changing the way we view the women’s game going forward,’” she says. “And it’s only gonna get bigger and better.”
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Write to Rachel E. Greenspan at [email protected]
Back in spotlight, U.S. great Mia Hamm set for roles at AS Roma, LAFC
There’s really no debating it: The biggest U.S.-born soccer star of all time is Mia Hamm, and that’s still the case in 2014, 10 years after she retired from her playing career. Hamm has led a relatively quiet life for the past decade in the Los Angeles area with her husband, former baseball star Nomar Garciaparra, and their three children: twin girls Ava and Grace, now 7, and son Garrett, 2.
But twice in the past week Hamm has made big news reentering the public sphere. First she joined the board of directors of the newly ambitious Italian club AS Roma, and then Hamm was announced as part of the star-studded list of minority owners—along with Garciaparra, Magic Johnson, Tony Robbins, Vincent Tan and others—in the new Los Angeles Football Club, which is set to join MLS in 2017.
Hamm, now 42, laughed when asked if she was starting to go public more often moving forward.
“I don’t know if that means I’m getting older or not,” she said. “What I do now is use my experiences on the field and try to share that passion and knowledge off the field. I’ve been a part of some amazing teams, and I’ve been a part of some teams where we’ve fallen short. I’ve had time to reflect on what we did well when we were successful and what we could have done better when we weren’t.”
The Roma board of directors spot came up suddenly in recent weeks. Hamm said her parents moved to Rome on the day after her last day in high school, and she would travel there twice a year.
“It was perfect timing because it was during the World Cup there in 1990,” she said. “Roma was the team I was able to watch on TV all the time when I was there. They were the colors I’d see all over the city, and it was one of the clubs I paid attention to in Serie A.”
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Three weeks ago, Roma’s Boston-based owner, James Pallotta, read a news article in which Hamm was talking about her connection to Roma. Pallotta is aiming to transform Roma into one of the world’s elite clubs with a global following, including plans for a fancy new stadium. Pallotta had met Hamm a few times through Garciaparra (who played for the Boston Red Sox from 1996-2004), and an idea was hatched.
“A lightbulb went off and I wondered if Mia would come on the board of directors of Roma,” Pallotta said. “The potential of having Mia on the board of Roma to me was a no-brainer. What she’s forgotten about football over the last 30 years I still have to learn.”
• LYTTLETON: Roma’s Pallotta wants to host NFL, other American events in Italy
He added that Hamm could have a big impact on increasing Roma’s visibility in the United States among different demographics.
Hamm said she was looking at probably traveling to Rome for board meetings every six weeks or so, and in addition to the men’s side (where she’s a fan of Francesco Totti and Daniele De Rossi) she’s interested in learning more about Roma’s interest in women’s soccer.
Meanwhile, Hamm’s involvement as an owner in LAFC also originated through her husband, she said. Henry Nguyen and Tom Penn, two of the principal owners, contacted Garciaparra, who grew up in Southern California, and over time Hamm entered the conversation.
“I met , and I was struck by their sincerity and enthusiasm about wanting to do this and really having this club be a part of the fabric of the greater Los Angeles area,” Hamm said. “The Galaxy has set a very high bar in this area, and I’ve been asked if L.A. can handle two soccer teams. And I was like, ‘Absolutely.’ As part of the ownership, we’re really excited about the challenges in front of us. I just came back from our daughters’ school, and there are so many parents our age that play or played, and they’re excited about it. That’s fun for us to hear.”
Hamm says she’d love for LAFC to join two other MLS teams (Portland and Houston) in owning an NWSL team.
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“It’s been in discussion in terms of hopefully at some point,” she says. “It just makes sense to me.”
As for the upcoming Women’s World Cup, Hamm had plenty to say about the U.S. team and the lawsuit by top players over FIFA’s plans to use artificial turf.
On the U.S. team: “It’s great how they competed in the qualifiers. You love the attitude they had there, that regardless of who’s on the field and how they’re playing, in the end it comes down to results and making sure they take care of business. That was awesome to see.
“With the World Cup, it’s about peaking at the right time and making sure you’re as healthy as possible. You have things happening along the way, but one of the things I really like about what’s happening, when Tommy was coach he really established this: Their depth is really strong. And you need that in a tournament.”
On the artificial turf lawsuit: “Am I surprised those fields up in Canada are turf? No. I understand that. It’s not this negative feeling toward Canada or the Canadian Soccer Association. But this is an opportunity for FIFA to do the right thing. It’s the biggest tournament that these women play in. It’s the biggest stars. And they should be playing on a natural surface. I know I preferred it when I played. These athletes deserve to play on the best surface, because it is a different game . So I’m hopeful.”
FIFA Women’s World Cup France 2019™
Hamm also participated in the 1995 Women’s World Cup in Sweden, where she helped USA to the bronze medal, and the 2003 Women’s World Cup on home soil in which the Americans finished third.
- FIFA Women’s World Cup China 1991: Winner
- FIFA Women’s World Cup USA 1999: Winner
- Olympic gold medalist: 1996 and 2004
- Olympic silver medalist: 2000
- FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year: 2001 and 2002
In addition to unquestionable success on the pitch, Hamm was for years a role model for aspiring younger generations of girls who for so long lacked an icon to look up to. Sponsors came out in force to take full advantage and Hamm – shy and modest off the field – became in many significant ways the face of women’s football.
“In short, I’m just a football player. I’ve not freed any slaves or changed the world. I just play football and enjoy my success,” Hamm once said, speaking to the humility that defines her as a player and a person.
One person unwilling to share Hamm’s limited perception of her impact is Pele, arguably the greatest player in the history of football. The Brazil legend named Hamm and team-mate Michelle Akers as the only female members of the FIFA 100, a collection of the greatest living footballers as selected by O’Rei himself.
“When Mia has the ball at her feet, you have the feeling that something great will happen.” These words, from team-mate Julie Foudy, probably best describe Mia Hamm the footballer.
Born with a club foot to becoming World Football Hall of Fame’s first woman inductee, the story of Mia Hamm
TODD WARSHAW / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP
The making of a Legend
America has always produced more than its fair share of great female athletes that took the sporting arena by storm. From Billy Jean King to Serena Williams, the list of sporting legends to have emerged from the US is endless.
Yet Hamm is a name that stands out and resonates the most in the hearts of every millennial girl from the US, thereby perhaps making her rightfully considered “the most important athlete of the last 15 years” by renowned Washington Post columnist Michael Wilbon.
Mariel Margaret Hamm or Mia was the fourth of six siblings born to Bill and Stephanie in Selma Hamm, Alabama on March 17, 1972. Born with a club foot, she wore corrective shoes as a toddler and spent most of her childhood around her family on United States Air Force bases.
The nature of her parent’s job meant that she was frequently on the move. Her first rendezvous with football or soccer as it is more commonly known in the US, came when she moved to Florence, Italy with her family. It was here where she discovered her love for football.
An unparalleled record
Her high school days saw her compete and excel as a football player on the boys’ team. She was a member of Notre Dame Catholic High School’s football team as a freshman and sophomore before becoming the youngest player by over a year to participate in the 1987 US Olympic Festival at just 15 years of age. Hamm started in her favoured position up front frequently. However, she never managed to find the back of the net during her time at the US Olympic Festival and eventually returned to attend Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke Virginia and starred in the Lake Braddock football team’s 1989 state championships triumph.
TIM SLOAN / AFP
Hamm’s college years saw her attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It was here that she helped North Carolina’s Tar Heels win four National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) women’s championships in five years.
Her unmatched achievements were rewarded with the All-American and Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Player of the Year during the last three years of her college. This was just the beginning in an illustrious career that witnessed Hamm cement her legacy as one of the greatest of all time over the course of the next decade. Her ACC record when she graduated read: 103 goals, 72 assists and total of 278 points.
The sheer volume of her achievements after college is difficult to quantify simply because she has no equal in the sport – men or women – if her honours are anything to go by. In a nutshell, Hamm represented her nation in four World Cups: China 1991, Sweden 1995, United States 1999 and United States 2003 and three Olympic Games: Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004.
A two-time World Cup and Olympics winner having finished first in China 1991, United States 1999 and the Atlanta as well as Athens Olympics, Hamm’s overall goal tally in global tournaments is 13 goals from 38 matches at seven tournaments.
An athletic, dynamic and technically skilled striker, Hamm held the record for more international goals than any other player, male or female, in football history until 2013, when her former team-mate Abby Wambach broke her record by finding the back of the net for the 159th time.
Honours and philanthropy
Even though she was a member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame, the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame and the Texas Sports Hall of Fame already, her induction into the World Football Hall of Fame in 2013 is definitely one of her greatest moments as she became the first ever woman inductee. Hamm is also the recipient of the Golden Foot Legends Award, given to legends of the game that stand out for their athletic achievements or personality.
Hamm has also given back to society and is regarded as more than just a pioneer for women in football or the greatest female football player. Her charity and humanitarian efforts saw her set up The Mia Hamm Foundation after the death of her brother Garrett in 1997 due to complications from aplastic anemia.
Her non-profit foundation created to raise funds and awareness for families in need of a marrow or cord blood transplantation also looks to encourage the development of more opportunities for young girls in sport; thus, keeping true to the crux of her identity as she looks to give back to those around as well as the game that gave her everything.
CARRBORO, N.C.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–As the World Cup kicks off this weekend, all eyes will be on the U.S. Women’s Team and the amazing feats they can achieve with their feet. As Defender Ali Krieger takes the field for her second World Cup, she’ll also be joining forces with the non-profit miraclefeet and Soccer.com to help level the playing field for children living with clubfoot in developing countries. miraclefeet and Krieger are working together to ensure every child has the chance to experience the thrill of making that first goal.
miraclefeet and its local partners change the trajectories of children’s lives forever by providing a simple and effective treatment for children born with clubfoot in developing countries. Each year, nearly 200,000 children are born with clubfoot – 80 percent of whom live in developing countries without easy access to care. Without medical intervention, these children aren’t given a fair shot at life. They can’t run or play soccer, they likely cannot attend school, and they are often neglected and abused. All this suffering is completely and easily preventable. Using the non-surgical Ponseti Method, clubfoot can be easily treated for about $250 a child.
Ali Krieger and the teams at miraclefeet and Soccer.com invite soccer fans to join the #kick4clubfoot challenge – a fundraiser for children around the world with untreated clubfoot. Since 2010, miraclefeet’s local partners have enrolled more than 10,000 children in treatment in 13 countries. To celebrate that milestone, they want to raise $10,000 during the #kick4clubfoot challenge.
With the #kick4clubfoot challenge, soccer players and fans are encouraged to upload and share a short video showcasing their best soccer moves, and then challenge fellow soccer fans to play along.
“Together, we can help change the lives of children living with clubfoot in developing countries – allowing them to walk, run, and maybe even one day play in the World Cup,” said Krieger.
Krieger isn’t the only member of the soccer community to support miraclefeet – Mia Hamm, former Captain of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team and two-time Olympic gold medalist, was born with clubfoot and is also an enthusiastic miraclefeet supporter.
“Being born with clubfoot did not stop me from living my life to the fullest. It shouldn’t stop others,” said Hamm. “Please help miraclefeet treat children around the world so they too can reach their potential.”
Other soccer ambassadors for miraclefeet include current and former U.S. Women’s National Team members Rachel Buehler Van Hollebeke, Carla Overbeck, Cindy Parlow Cone, and April Heinrichs.
To support the campaign, visit miraclefeet’s CrowdRise site, and donate to Ali’s team by visiting https://www.crowdrise.com/ikickforclubfoot2015/fundraiser/miraclefeet.
Clubfoot is a common birth defect that affects one out of every 750 children born worldwide. It is not well known in the US since children born with clubfoot are routinely treated at birth, usually with excellent results. However, children born with clubfoot in developing countries lack access to treatment, making untreated clubfoot a leading cause of physical disability in much of the world. Clubfoot makes it painful and difficult to walk. As a result children living with untreated clubfoot face terrible stigma, often do not go to school and are at higher risk of abuse, neglect and lifelong poverty. miraclefeet is a non-profit dedicated to providing proper treatment for children born with clubfoot in developing countries. It partners with local healthcare providers in public hospitals to establish and support clubfoot clinics. By building local capacity and working within the public health system miraclefeet is creating long-term and sustainable solutions to the problem of clubfoot. miraclefeet’s local partners have helped treat over 10,000 children in 13 countries around the world. A child born with clubfoot in a developing county can be fully treated for about $250 per child, transforming his or her life forever. To learn more, please visit www.miraclefeet.org.
If your child is born with clubfoot, don’t worry. It is fixable with a little bit of patience and diligence. Usually clubfoot is treated with braces, serial casting and/or splints. It can take a few years for complete treatment, but your child could live a completely normal (or extraordinary) life without any issues. Here are a list of celebrities that were born with clubfoot.
Kristi Yamaguchi – One of the most famous figure skaters of all time (and Dancing With the Stars Champion) was born with clubfeet and started figure skating as a physical therapy to help strengthen her legs, feet and ankles.
Mia Hamm – Mia Hamm was a forward for the US women’s national soccer team and is a record holding scorer. Her partial clubfoot was treated with casts and she was able to start playing sports competitively very soon after they were taken off.
Troy Aikman – Former Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback was born with “Third Club Foot” and was in a cast until he was 8 months old. He then had to wear special shoes until he was 3, but once his treatment was over, he never had any issues with his clubfoot again.
Damon Wayans – Damon, 1 of 9 children, is a famous comedian, writer and actor who is known for various TV shows including My Wife & Kids, and Waynehead. Waynehead was a cartoon that was about his real childhood and stars a boy from a large, poor family with a clubfoot.
Claudius – Clubfoot has existed for thousands of years. Claudius, also known as Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus, was a Roman Emperor from the Julio-Claudia dynasty. Although he had clubfoot, it didn’t interfere with his ruling.
Allen Dulles – Allen Dulles is one of the most well known spies who was the top spy in Europe during WWI and WWII. He overcame his clubfoot and even became a CIA Director later on in his career.
If your child is born with clubfoot, you should see a podiatrist right away and start treatment as soon as possible. The younger the child is, the easier it will be to correct the deformities. Dr. Kenneth R. Wilhelm of Clifton Foot & Ankle Center has over eighteen years treating patients of all foot and ankle ailments. Call our Centreville, VA office at 703-996-3000 or make an appointment here.
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In January 2019, a number of social media users encountered what appeared to be a news article reporting that Mia Hamm, a retired U.S. soccer player, had passed away at the age of 46:
Mia Hamm (46) legend and pioneer of the United States womensoccer team. Has passed away tonight as a result of a coronary stent fracture at her home. Its was her husband Nomar Garciaparra who found the unresponsive body of the former soccer stzr on the floor of there bathroom. Paramedismcs where called and saw Hamm had died about 1 hour before. Mia Hamm is a true legend for the United Women Soccer Team. An Olympic champion of 1996 and 2004 and World Cup winner of 1991 and 1999 on that last tournament held in United States Hzmm had the highest point of her career of 17 years for United States. Breaking barriers and public records. Mia Hamm was 46 going on 47 at the time of her death.
One hint that the article was not a genuine news item is that it was rife with spelling errors and typos.
The article was published by the web site React365, a “prank” site that enables users to quickly generate their own fake news stories by filling in a template. Internet pranksters simply fill out a title, a brief description, choose an image, and then React365 spits out a bit of fake news that can be spread on social media.
A blank template from this web site can be seen below:
A disclaimer on the bottom of React365.com reads “This website is an entertainment website, jokes are created by users. These are humourous jokes, fantasy, fictional, that should not be seriously taken or as a source of information.”
In addition to the disreputable source of the rumor that Mia Hamm passed away in January 2019, readers could have determined that this was fake news by cross-checking this report with credible news outlets. Hamm is a two-time gold medalist and is considered one of the greatest female soccer players of all-time. If Hamm ad truly passed away, news of her death would have been reported by numerous credible news outlets, yet we found no genuine news sources reporting her death.
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A recent Harris poll had some revealing results. In a nationwide survey asking Americans to name their favorite female athlete, Mia Hamm rose from No. 5 to No. 4, behind only the tennis-playing Williams sisters and race car driver Danica Patrick. Considering those three athletes are still competing and that Hamm has been retired for almost six years, the poll raised a few eyebrows (including mine).
Women’s soccer’s all-time leading scorer went out on top with a gold medal in the 2004 Olympics, and while Hamm has spent the past six years focusing on raising a family with her husband, Nomar Garciaparra — their twin daughters, Grace and Ava, are now 3 years old — Hamm has increased her presence in the public spotlight of late. It’s an intriguing list of projects that we talked about recently:
• The U.S. World Cup Bid Committee. Hamm is part of an eclectic group that’s trying to land the 2018 or ’22 World Cup for the U.S., a board that includes former President Bill Clinton, Brad Pitt, Henry Kissinger, Spike Lee, Bob Kraft and Landon Donovan. “For this thing to be successful you need all these minds,” she said. “I was thrilled they asked me. Having a female soccer player is important so that we’re not separating men’s and women’s soccer. We’re trying to grow this sport on both sides.” Hamm says she feels “really good” about the U.S.’ chances of landing the tournament when the decision comes down on Dec. 2.
• A global ambassador for FC Barcelona. Last November Hamm joined forces with the famed Catalan club, and she recently appeared at a Barça skills camp in suburban Los Angeles. It might have been new to see Hamm in Barcelona’s blue and red uniform, but she says it’s a good fit between her and the club. “Their whole motto is ‘More than a club,’ ” she said. “It’s about spreading the love of the game, working on your skills and being extremely creative. It was fun for me to get out there, to share and to learn from the coaches how Barcelona teaches players about the game.”
• Non-profit work in South Africa. Hamm attended the recent World Cup in South Africa, where she partnered up with actors Charlize Theron (a native South African) and Matt Damon to start a program called Home-Field Advantage. Hamm joined Theron and former U.S. teammate Lorrie Fair in a visit to a clinic in an impoverished part of South Africa near the Mozambique border. “Charlize is working with a doctor to reduce the numbers of HIV infections and educate young kids about respecting each other,” Hamm said. “A mobile health clinic travels to schools, and my involvement was through soccer, using that as a tool to help these kids. To get boys and girls, especially young girls, out there and find some comfort and happiness just playing and being kids was great.”
• Her foundation. For the past three years Hamm and Garciaparra have hosted a celebrity soccer game in the L.A. area for the Mia Hamm Foundation. “He always reminds me that his team has won more than mine has,” she joked.
Hamm doesn’t have any plans right now to coach full time, but she does some part-time coaching on a Southern California youth team that has ties to two of Garciaparra’s sisters. She marvels at her close friend Kristine Lilly, who’s in the running to make her sixth World Cup team when the tournament is played in Germany next year. (“She doesn’t take any opportunity for granted, and that’s why she’s endured the longest out of all of us.”) And she keeps tabs on what’s going on in the U.S. women’s league, WPS.
“I think the level of play in the games I’ve seen in person and on TV has been tremendous,” Hamm said. “There’s dynamic play, and you see the diversity that comes from the different coaching styles. I was at a Washington Freedom-FC Gold Pride game recently, and it was an exciting game. You were seeing Abby Wambach and Marta battle for balls, and then you were seeing defenses stretch a little bit but then make good adjustments. It was also great to see Tiffeny Milbrett out there. She scored a great goal.”
But for the most part Hamm is still geared toward her family, one that has some of the best sporting bloodlines you’ll ever come across. And while she and Garciaparra don’t have their daughters participating in scheduled training sessions — they are only 3, after all — they already like spending time with the ball.
“We had a reunion with former Freedom players, and they wanted to chase the ball around,” Hamm said. “It made me feel good. I would love for them to play. They don’t have to play at the highest level. I just want them to try it, because I think it’s such a great game, not just for what it can add to your life physically but emotionally too. For me, it was just a great way to get out and express myself, and whatever happened at home or with my friends, if I had a bad day I could just get it all out on the field.”
Now 38, though, Hamm doesn’t have any desire to make a serious comeback. Not long ago she played in a game with some friends and understood why. “I took my first shot and got a cramp,” she said. “Then watching the WPS game the next day I was like, ‘Oh, that’s the speed you’re supposed to compete at.’ We’d been at half-speed the day before.
“I’m on the right side of the chalk.”
There was a cool scene in a parking lot outside the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., last Saturday night. A 100 friends and family members of Clint Mathis gathered around a friend’s motor home to commemorate the career of Mathis, who retired at 33 after playing in the Los Angeles Galaxy’s 3-2 friendly loss to Real Madrid. Surrounded by thousands of tailgating fans, the party was a fitting way to mark the career of a player who was a man of the people.
“I’ll always remember this,” said Mathis, who was joined by his wife, Tracey, their two children, Maximus and Capryce, and his mother, Pat, among a horde of well-wishers. “To come back to the Rose Bowl where my career started was great.”
In the end, Mathis’s bum knees just couldn’t hold up to play anymore. “I could train, but I couldn’t walk up the stairs normally, couldn’t play with my kids,” he said. “I decided I’ve had a good career, and after 13 years it’s OK to say family is more important now.”
One of the most talented players in the history of U.S. Soccer, Mathis didn’t fulfill his vast potential, but he certainly had his share of glorious moments, especially when he was at the height of his powers from 2000 to ’02. With plenty of good food and drink to go around at the party on Saturday, the memories and the stories flowed freely.
There were recollections of Mathis’s signature moments on the field: his 60-yard slalom run to score for the MetroStars against Dallas; his MLS-record five goals in a game at the Cotton Bowl; his game-winning free kick for the U.S. at Honduras in a World Cup qualifier; and, not least, his technically flawless strike in the 2002 World Cup to silence a stadium full of South Korean fans in Daegu.
“That World Cup goal is something I’ll never forget, no matter how old I get, even if I get Alzheimer’s or something,” Mathis said, raising a glass. Then Mathis’ youth club coach, Phil Neddo, told a great story about the hardball tactics MLS tried to use when Mathis was negotiating his first contract. “There are a 100 Clint Mathises out there,” one MLS executive said.
He was wrong, of course. As we know now, he’s one of a kind.
(My apologies for no commentary on Tuesday’s U.S.-Brazil game. I’m on my post-World Cup vacation this week, and by the time you read this I’ll be on a boat off the coast of Puerto Rico. The Planet Fútbol column will resume in two weeks.)
American soccer player
The world’s most famous female soccer player, Mia Hamm, embodied the rise of American soccer, a sport played by millions of girls and boys that lacked a celebrity focus and a role model until she emerged as the leading all-time goal scorer in international soccer competition. Hamm became the biggest soccer name in the United States while playing on the U.S. national team in three World Cups and two Olympics.
Catching the Bug
Mariel Margaret Hamm was the fourth of six children born into a military family. Her father, Will Hamm, was a colonel in the U.S. army, and the family frequently moved as he was reassigned –to California, Alabama, Virginia, Texas and elsewhere. Hamm’s mother, Stephanie, was a dancer, and she nicknamed her daughter Mia after prima ballerina Mia Slavenska. But Mia rejected her mother’s attempts to make her into a dancer. Hamm refused to continue after just two ballet lessons when she was about six years old.
Hamm was already more interested in sports, especially soccer. When she was a toddler, her father was stationed in Florence, Italy. He bought season tickets to see the Fiorentina soccer club, and he often took Hamm to the games, where they both were mesmerized with the passion and athleticism of the players. “I believe it was in Italy that I really fell in love with the game,” Hamm recalled to Greg Mazzola of Coach and Athletic Director magazine. When the family moved to Wichita Falls, Texas, her father started refereeing soccer games and coaching her older brother, Garrett, and older sister, Tiffany. Hamm started playing when she was five, and her father was often her coach.
Young Mia Hamm especially admired her brother’s Garrett’s soccer skills. “When Garrett was in high school, he was the athlete Mia wanted to be,” her future husband Christian Corey revealed to Rosemary Feitelberg of WWD magazine. Garrett often chose Hamm to play with him in pick-up games against older boys. She also played Little League baseball, softball, tennis, basketball, and even football as a young girl, and later took up golf. There were few or no girls’ teams in any sports, including soccer, so Hamm often played with the boys. At Notre Dame Middle School, she was the split end and kicker on the football team. “I was just one of the guys,” Hamm later told Mike Spence of the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph.
Hamm played high school soccer as a freshman and sophomore at Notre Dame High School in Wichita Falls.
At 15, Hamm became the youngest player ever selected to the women’s national team. She played forward and filled in as a goalie for one international game. Hamm graduated from Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke, Virginia. Dorrance recruited her to play for his team at the University of North Carolina. His influence on Hamm was crucial to her development, especially since she lacked confidence. Dorrance once pulled her aside and told her that she could become the best player in the world. “Without his guidance, support, and teaching, I’d never have become the player I turned out to be,” Hamm revealed to Mazzola.
At North Carolina, Hamm majored in political science and broke collegiate records as a soccer star. She played on four straight NCAA championship teams from 1989 through 1993, was a three-time National Player of the Year, and became the NCAA’s all-time leading scorer. Hamm’s 103 goals, 72 assists and 278 points were all collegiate records, as were her tournament career records of 16 goals, nine assists and 41 points. Dorrance continued to urge her to work harder and develop her skills.
In 1991, Hamm took a sabbatical from college and spent a year training with the U.S. National team and playing in the first-ever Women’s World Cup, held in China. Coached by Dorrance, the U.S. women won the world championship.
Barely 5 foot 5 and 125 pounds, Hamm was quick, an excellent passer, and a devastating shooter. She also earned a reputation as an excellent dribbler and header and could score with either foot. Aggressive and determined, Hamm had an uncanny knack for penetrating defenses. “Mia has this amazing ability to go right through defenders, as if by molecular displacement,” said Dorrance.
After graduating from the University of North Carolina, Hamm married Christian Corey, a career Marine, and played exclusively for the women’s national team. In the 1995 Women’s World Cup, she played forward and midfielder. One game, she even filled in at goal-keeper when the U.S. keeper was red-carded and had to leave the game. She led the team to a third-place bronze medal finish
The 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, was the first in which women’s soccer was a gold-medal sport. After many years of American girls playing the sport, it was time for soccer to take center stage, and Hamm was in the spotlight. Before the largest crowd in the history of women’s soccer, 76,481, at the University of Georgia’s Seaford Stadium, plus a huge television audience, the U.S. team took on China for the gold medal. Sportswriter Dan Weber wrote: “…in Pele -like fashion, Hamm was both the difference – and the focus of everything that happened. … Hamm had a hand – or a hamstring – in every U.S. strike.” Hamm, who was playing on a badly sprained ankle, was all over the field. In the 19th minute, she took a cross from Christine Lilly and shot it past the goalie. It hit the upright, and teammate Shannon MacMillan scored on the rebound. After China tied the score, Hamm took the ball into the right corner in the 68th minute, stopped and crossed the ball to Joy Fawcett, who fed Tiffeny Milbrett for the game-winning goal.
Olympic gold medals bring attention, and almost overnight Hamm, the biggest star on the U.S. team, became a celebrity. Advertisers hoped to connect her notoriety to the market of eight million female soccer players under the age of 18 in the United States. Hamm started doing commercials for Nike, a sponsor of the U.S. women’s soccer team. Nike designed a women’s sports shoe in her honor that featured her number 9. Hamm also did endorsements for Sportmart, Power Bar, Pert Plus shampoo and Pepsi. People named her one of the “50 Most Beautiful People in the World.”
According to a 1998 Sports Business Daily survey, Hamm was America’s most marketable female endorser. She even promoted a new Soccer Barbie doll. Hamm’s most famous commercial epitomized the impact that she had on the male-dominated world of American athletics. In a widely played Gatorade spot, Hamm challenged fellow University of North Carolina superstar Michael Jordan to a series of sports contests, including tennis, basketball, soccer, track, and fencing, and as the song “Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better” played, the commercial ended with Hamm flipping Jordan over her hip in a judo maneuver. “You have the greatest icon of American sports put alongside this woman who’s saying, ‘I can beat you,'” said Rick Burton, a professor at the University of Oregon’s Warsaw Marketing Center, in a Newsweek interview. “That’s incredibly important to the women’s sports movement.”
In a later commercial for Gatorade Ice, Hamm was shown executing a header and a bicycle kick as “ice” flows through her veins in a computerized rendering of her endoskeleton. All her endorsement deals gave her an estimated $1 million in annual earnings in a sport where most women players could not yet earn a full-time living by playing professionally.
Hamm had come to symbolize not only the ascendancy of soccer as an American sport, but the rise of women’s athletics. She became a top role model and a much-in-demand speaker. Hamm participated widely in clinics for girls and exhibition games to promote soccer. She told audiences of young girls how soccer had transformed her from shy and uncertain to confident and strong. Hamm wrote an inspirational book, Go for the Goal: A Champion’s Guide to Winning in Soccer and Life, which was part autobiography but primarily a soccer instructional manual filled with inspirational advice. In the book, she emphasized teamwork and practice as well as heart and attitude, insisting there was no place on a soccer team for an egotistical player with the aphorism “There is no me in Mia.”
|1987||Joins U.S. Women’s National Team as youngest member|
|1989-93||Leads University of North Carolina to four national championships|
|1989-93||Sets all-time collegiate scoring records|
|1991, 1995, 1999||Plays in Women’s World Cup|
|1996, 2000||Plays on U.S. Olympic teams|
|1999||Establishes Mia Hamm Foundation|
|2000||Founds WUSA, Women’s United Soccer Association|
|2001-02||Plays for Washington Freedom in WUSA|
As Hamm grew increasingly comfortable as a role model for girls, she gradually shed the shyness and inhibition that were part of her personality. But she was reluctant to hog the spotlight and quick to credit others for her success. As for being labeled the world’s greatest player, Hamm said it was mostly a matter of more attention being paid to goal scoring. In 1999 she told Mazzola: “I’m just another player trying to fill my role on this talented team. Since I score goals, I get more attention.” Even when she described her own abilities, she downplayed them. Hamm explained to Starr: “A great finisher can analyze in a split second what the goalie is doing, what surface of the foot to use, and then put the ball in exactly the right spot. It’s an ability to slow down time. You don’t actually shoot any faster than other players do, but you process a lot more information in the same time … I’m still working on that.” During the 1999 World Cup, she admitted to Newsweek that she wouldn’t take penalty kicks because “I lack confidence.”
Hamm always promoted the sport above herself. She appeared at clinics and freely gave autographs at every opportunity, but often refused photo shoots for high-profile publications. “This isn’t all about me,” said Hamm to Newsweek during the build-up to the 1999 Women’s World Cup. “I won’t bear the entire responsibility for my gender and my sport. I can’t carry that much weight. I’m not that strong a person.” Her national team coach, Tony DiCicco, told Jere Longman of the New York Times: “She’s not only a soccer icon. She’s an icon for women’s athletics. That’s a huge responsibility.”
Hamm became a leader in other aspects of life as well. Her brother Garrett contracted a rare blood disease, aplastic anemia. Hamm joined the board of the Marrow Foundation and raised $50,000 for his bone marrow transplant with a charity soccer match. After his death, she established the Mia Hamm Foundation to raise money for bone-marrow research and to set up clinics and camps for young girls in soccer and other sports. The foundation held an annual golf tournament, the Mia Hamm Foundation Golf Classic, to raise money to help families of bone marrow transplant patients.
On a Winning Team
In 1997, Hamm participated in Nike’s Victory Tour, an international competition played in six U.S. cities. Later that same year, Hamm was a top goal-scorer in the U.S. Women’s Cup, scoring three goals against Canada and two against Australia.
In 1998, Hamm led the U.S. team with 20 goals and 20 assists in international play. In May 1999, Hamm set a new international scoring record with her 108th career goal. That spring, she also had a research and development building at Nike world headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, named after her. The goal-scoring record brought her more notoriety. “When I was playing, they said soccer was a man’s world and that women should remain on the sidelines,” said soccer legend Pele, in an endorsement on the Go for the Goal book jacket. “All I can say is I’m glad I never had to go up against Mia Hamm.”
In 1999, Hamm went through a drought during World Cup qualifying rounds, going eight games without scoring. Defenses double- and even triple-teamed her. The World Cup, held in U.S. cities, was no disappointment, as Hamm and her teammates pushed women’s soccer to new heights of popularity in the host country. More than 90,000 fans packed the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, for the championship game between the U.S. team and China, the most people ever to see a women’s sporting event in history. Many of the U.S. fans were wearing replica Hamm jerseys with her number 9 on them. The U.S. won on a penalty kick by Brandi Chastain during a tie-breaker shootout after an exciting scoreless duel.
In the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, Australia, Hamm scored a goal and the U.S. women earned a 2-0 victory in the opening game against Norway. The U.S. and China played to a 1-1 draw, and then the U.S. beat Nigeria to advance to the semifinals against Brazil. Hamm scored the only goal in the semifinal game to give her a career total of 127 goals. In the championship game against arch-rival Norway, in front of a capacity crowd in Sydney and a global TV audience, the U.S. was trailing 2-1 with time running out. Hamm had an assist on the sole U.S. goal, by Tiffeny Milbrett. Ninety seconds into stoppage time, Hamm was in the right corner and lofted a high pass to Milbrett, who headed it into the goal for the equalizer. But Norway won the game in overtime.
Hamm was heading into a new phase in her career, no longer a top goal-scorer. “Her best gift may be her competitive force,” noted Jay Papasan of Texas Monthly. “If scoring eludes her, she intensifies other areas of her game, doling out assists, hounding loose balls, and stretching the defense with her long, slashing runs.”
In 2000, Hamm was a founder of the first women’s professional soccer league, the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA), and she was counted on to provide the star power to make the league financially viable. She joined the Washington Freedom and appeared frequently at civic events to promote the new league and the Freedom team. Overcoming her quiet demeanor, Hamm often spoke of the need to support the league. DiCicco, who was the league’s commissioner, referred to Hamm as “our Michael Jordan” in an article by Grant Wahl for Sports Illustrated for Women.
The Freedom drew a crowd of 34,148 for the league’s inaugural game in 2001 and defeated the Bay Area Cyber Rays 1-0. Hamm, though battling injuries, dribbled past Chastain and drew a foul which set up the game-winning goal on a penalty kick. She started the first three games of the 2001 season as a midfielder, partly because she was recovering from a shoulder injury, then coach Jim Gabbara moved her back to forward.
Every place Washington played, attendance soared as young girls and their families came out to see Hamm. “Hamm has been the pied piper of the Women’s United Soccer Association, attracting hoards of fans wherever she goes,” noted Jennifer Starks of the Contra Costa Times. “Hamm’s presence has been critical in the attempts to promote and sell the new soccer league to the masses.” Attendance at games averaged 14,000 when Hamm appeared; without her, it averaged about 8,000.
She would spend up to 20 minutes after each game signing autographs. For the season, Hamm played six positions and scored only six goals. In September, however, she scored two goals in the U.S. national team’s 4-1 win over Germany to extend her career record to 129.
Hamm was still piling up honors. At the end of 2001, FIFA – soccer’s international governing body — named Hamm its first Women’s Player of the Year. Also that year, she divorced Corey and later began dating Boston Red Sox shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, whom she first met in 1998 while beating him in a penalty-kick contest.
In the off-season, Hamm underwent knee surgery. In 2002, she did not play until the Freedom’s tenth game, when she entered wearing a knee brace in the 65th minute of play and seven minutes later scored a goal that gave Washington a 2-1 victory. Athough Hamm started only one game, she was the key player in Washington’s playoff run. The team went 10-1-2 after she rejoined the squad, and she had eight goals and six assists, including three game-winning goals. Coming in fresh in the second half, Hamm would attack defenses in her old style. Even after turning 30, she was still a force to be reckoned with.
Mia Hamm was a pioneer to a degree that few other athletes have ever been in any sport. She scored more goals in international competition than any man or woman who ever played the world’s most popular game, and in doing so brought women’s soccer to global notoriety. In the United States, Hamm represented the ascendancy of women’s athletics, being the foremost name in the most popular sport played by girls and becoming an icon representing women’s ability to compete on the playing field. As the key to the success of the first women’s professional soccer league, Hamm carried a heavy weight on her shoulders, but did so with consistent grace, poise and humility. Her philosophy of team play above individual achievement set a tone that helped instruct countless young athletes, girls and boys.
Awards and Accomplishments
|1987||Youngest-ever member of U.S. Women’s National team|
|1989-90||NCAA All-Tournament team|
|1989-90, 1992-93||Member of NCAA championship team|
|1991||Member of Women’s World Cup champions|
|1992||Women’s College Player of the Year|
|1992||Sets NCAA record for season scoring and assists|
|1992-93||Most valuable offensive player, NCAA Tournament|
|1993||NCAA Player of the Year|
|1993||Sets NCAA tournament career scoring record|
|1993||Sets NCAA career record for goals, assists, points|
|1993-94||Women’s College Athlete of the Year|
|1993-94||Atlantic Coast Conference Female Athlete of the Year|
|1993-94||Mary Garber Award|
|1994-99||Female Athlete of the Year, U.S. Soccer Association|
|1996||Olympic Gold Medal|
|1998||Goodwill Games Gold Medal|
|1999||Breaks international career goals record|
|1999||Sportswoman of the Year, Women’s Sports Foundation|
|1999||Member of Women’s World Cup champions|
|2001||Women’s Player of the Year, FIFA|
SELECTED WRITINGS BY HAMM:
(With Aaron Heifetz) Go for the Goal: A Champion’s Guide to Winning in Soccer and Life. Harper Collins, 1999.
Christopher, Matt and Glenn Stout. On the Field with … Mia Hamm. Little, Brown, 1998. Rutledge, Rachel. Mia Hamm: Striking Superstar. Mill brook Press, 2000.
Diedrick, Brian. “Gatorade Scores With Ice-Cold Superstar.” SHOOT, 43 (April 19, 2002): 10.
Feitelberg, Rosemary. “Mia Hamm: Kicking Back.” WWD, 173 (April 3, 1997): 64.
“The 50 Most Beautiful People in the World 1997.#x201D; People, 47 (May 12, 1997): 90.
Haydon, John. “Mia Hamm Relishes Her Role as Big Cheese in Women’s Game.” Washington Times, (June 7, 1997): 7.
Hobgood, Cynthia. “Golf Tourney Boosts Hamm’s Foundation.” Washington Business Journal. 19 (May 4, 2001): 10.
Hobgood, Cynthia. “Mia and Michael.” Washington Business Journal. 19 (December 29, 2000): 8.
“It Went Down to the Wire.” Newsweek. 134 (July 19, 1999): 46.
Killion, Ann. “Mia Hamm is providing a connection.” Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service. (May 8, 1997): 508 K5953.
Longman, Jere. “A Superstar’s Burden.” New York Times Upfront. 132 (September 6, 1999): 32.
“Match Play: The Dating Trend of the Moment?” People. 58 (August 19, 2002): 58.
Mazzola, Gregg. “Goals.” Coach and Athletic Director. 68 (December 1998): 44.
“Mia Hamm: Top Scorer in the Soccer World.” U.S. News & World Report. 126 (June 21, 1999): 13.
Papasan, Jay. “Mia Hamm.” Texas Monthly. 28 (September 2000): 156.
“Scorecard (Mia Hamm Will Have a Building Named After Her).” Sports Illustrated. 90 (May 31, 1999): 23.
Starks, Jennifer. “Women’s Soccer Banks on the Mia Factor.”Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service. (July 25, 2001): K4979.
Starr, Mark. “Keeping Her Own Score.” Newsweek. 133 (June 21, 1999): 60.
Wahl, Grant. “Mia’s Excellent Adventure.”Sports Illustrated for Women. 3 (March 1, 2001): 64.
Weber, Dan. “Mia Hamm Makes All the Difference. “Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service. (August 1, 1996): 80 K2154.
Wright, Ken. “Freedom to Keep Hamm in Sub Role.” Washington Times. (August 21, 2002): C03.
Wright, Ken. “Hamm Scores Winner in Return to Freedom.”Washington Times. (June 13, 2002): C09.
“Mia Hamm.” Women in Sports. http://www.makeithappen.com/wis/bios/hammm.html(December 28, 2002).
“Mia Hamm.” WUSA. http://www.wusa.com/players_coaches/players/mia_hamm/(December 28, 2002).
“Mia Hamm Awards.” Elaine’s Mia Hamm webpage. http://www.geocities.com/Colosseum/Pressbox/6343/awards.html (December 28, 2002).
Sketch by Michael Betzold
TBT: Remember When Mia Hamm Played Goalie At The Women’s World Cup?
Few players in the history of the sport have impacted women’s soccer as much as Mia Hamm. The feared striker retired as the all-time leader in international goals with 158 (later passed by former teammate Abby Wambach) and still holds the record for most USWNT assists with 145, a mark that may never be equaled.
Third all time in USWNT appearances, Hamm was the face of U.S. women’s soccer for decades, having played from 1987 to 2004. She won two World Cups, two Olympic gold medals and four NCAA titles at UNC.
She was powerful in front of goal, unstoppable at times. She was creative with the ball, regularly setting up teammates. She was hard working up top, the first line of defense for her team. She was the ultimate team player.
Never was this more evident than in 1995 when disaster nearly struck the USWNT at the Women’s World Cup.
Briana Scurry was a legendary goalkeeper in her own right. Although she (and the Chinese goalkeeper) both clearly cheated during the historic penalty kick shootout in the 1999 Women’s World Cup final by jumping off their lines early, Scurry wasn’t typically one to bend the rules or make mistakes.
But in 1995, late in a World Cup group-stage match against Denmark, she made one of the most bone-headed mistakes of her career.
The 23-year-old goalkeeper had played well enough that day, keeping the Danes off the scoreboard two days after she had given up three goals in a draw with China. But in the 88th minute with the U.S. up 2-0, she stepped outside the box while launching a long punt clear.
The linesman saw Scurry hadn’t let go of the ball with her hands when she was outside of the box, and referee Mamadouba Camara showed her a straight red card.
U.S. coach Tony DiCicco had just played his third and final substitution minutes earlier, meaning he couldn’t bring in back-up goalie Saskia Webber.
Who would he turn to as goalkeeper for the remainder of the match?
None other than Mia Hamm, the 23-year-old striker.
Hamm was no stranger to the big stage. At 15, she became the youngest player ever to debut for the USWNT. She scored two goals at the 1991 Women’s World Cup at 19, helping the U.S. claim the FIFA’s first international trophy, which back then was known as the “1st FIFA World Championship for Women’s Football for the M&M’s Cup.” (FIFA didn’t think women were deserving of bestowing the title of “World Cup” to the winner.)
Hamm had already scored in the opening group-stage match of the 1995 tournament, briefly giving the U.S. a 3-1 lead against China it would squander. She would add another goal later in the tournament, also against China in a 2-0 win in the third-place match.
After the red card against Denmark, Hamm threw on Scurry’s giant No. 1 keeper’s shirt, tucking it into her shorts so it didn’t go down to her knees. She hurriedly put on some gloves and rushed back into goal.
Hamm’s first task in goal as the match ticked past the 90-minute mark was to defend a free kick from the edge of the area that resulted from the Scurry red card. Fortunately for her, having not had a chance to take any warm-up shots, the effort from Denmark whizzed just wide.
Despite the match being mostly decided, the referee ended up allowing more than eight minutes of stoppage time, the English-language commentator even saying “I do not know where this referee is finding all the added time from — it’s a crazy situation.”
But Hamm persevered through the final minutes, making two saves to close out the 2-0 clean sheet, which was important as a single goal would have cost the U.S. its spot at the top of Group C.
Maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that Hamm was a capable fill-in as goalkeeper. She’s clearly a supreme athlete and can do it all. Who can forget the time she threw Michael Jordan to the floor in a judo match?
After the Denmark match, the U.S. lodged an appeal of the red card. DiCicco was pissed after the match, according to this report from the LA Times, which said DiCicco blamed FIFA, as others also did, for employing inexperienced referees.
“It’s naive officiating,” DiCicco said. “Obviously, I don’t agree with the call. Maybe it’s a hand-ball. Maybe, if the goalkeeper is trying to sneak an unfair advantage, it might even be a yellow card. But I think a red card is really harsh.
“The (U.S.-China) game the other night done by the Swedish referee (Ingrid Jonsson) was outstanding. I think anybody who was here saw that she had total control of the match. Today, it was simply not as well officiated.
“I have filed a formal protest because I think it’s an incorrect call and there’s no way that an athlete should be put out of the championship for a referee’s misinterpretation.
“In the spirit of the game, it was an incorrect call. If (Scurry) came out and handled the ball because somebody was breaking in, yes. If she takes somebody down, that’s the correct call. But this was incorrect.”
Hard to argue with DiCicco there. Nonetheless, Scurry was suspended for the next match, in which Webber played in goal, a 4-1 win over Australia. Scurry returned for the knockout rounds, starting with a 4-0 shutout of Japan in the quarterfinals. However, Ann Kristin Aarønes netted past Scurry in the 10th minute of the semifinal match as eventual champion Norway knocked the Americans out with a 1-0 victory.
Hamm, Scurry and many of the other members of the 1995 team would return four years later, better than ever, to win the 1999 Women’s World Cup in front of record crowds.
Mia Hamm, byname of Mariel Margaret Hamm, (born March 17, 1972, Selma, Alabama, U.S.), American football (soccer) player who became the first international star of the women’s game. Playing forward, she starred on the U.S. national team that won World Cup championships in 1991 and 1999 and Olympic gold medals in 1996 and 2004. She was revered for her all-around skill, competitive spirit, and knack for goal scoring. She retired from the national team in 2004 with 158 goals in international competition, the most by any player, male or female (her record was broken by countrywoman Abby Wambach in 2013). She was twice named Women’s World Player of the Year (2001–02) by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).
Hamm’s goal-scoring talent as a teenager drew attention from top college programs as well as the national team. At age 15 she became the youngest person ever to become a member of the U.S. team. In 1989 Hamm entered the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and, by the time she graduated in 1994, she had helped the Tar Heels win four National Collegiate Athletic Association championships.
Hamm made 276 appearances with the national team. During her career, in addition to winning the four major championships, the U.S. women finished third in the 1995 and 2003 World Cup tournaments and took a silver medal at the 2000 Olympics. With Hamm as the star, they enjoyed media attention unprecedented for a women’s sports team, especially during the 1999 World Cup held in the United States. Jerseys with her number 9 became a top seller, and her popularity, which continued into her retirement, rivaled that of the best-known male athletes.
Hamm also played professionally for the Washington Freedom of the short-lived Women’s United Soccer Association (2001–03). After retiring from competitive play in 2004, she remained involved in the sport. Notably, in 2014 Hamm became a co-owner—along with her husband, former baseball player Nomar Garciaparra, and numerous others—of the Los Angeles Football Club of Major League Soccer; the team began play in 2018.
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Hamm cowrote (with Aaron Heifetz) Go for the Goal: A Champion’s Guide to Winning in Soccer and Life (1999).
Soccer Legend Mia Hamm On Women’s Sports, Her Heroes And Raising Kids
Mia Hamm with husband Nomar Garciaparra. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
Mia Hamm retired from soccer in 2004 after 17 years on the U.S. Women’s National Team, two World Championships and two Olympic gold medals. Her 158 international goals are the most by any player, male or female, in the history of soccer. Nike founder and chairman cited Hamm as one of three athletes that “played at a level that added a new dimension” to their sports. The other two were Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods. Nike named its largest building on its campus after Hamm in 1999.
Hamm was a pioneer for gender equality in sports and this year ESPN named her the greatest female athlete of the last 40 years, which covers the Title IX era. Hamm also shined as the most marketable female soccer player ever generating millions of dollars from endorsement partners. Hamm has eschewed big endorsements in retirement (she is still affiliated with Nike and Gatorade through her charity) to concentrate on being a mother to her three kids with six-time All-Star Nomar Garciaparra and her foundation. She recently partnered with Dick’s Sporting Goods to benefit her foundation in a program called “Gifts that Matter.”
“Mia represents everything that Dick’s Sporting Goods stands for as far as a brand goes. From a female athlete standpoint, she is an inspiration to so many young girls out there who want to achieve success in sports,” says Lauren Hobart, chief marketing officer at Dick’s. Hamm visited Forbes this week to discuss her life after soccer. Here is an edited version of our converstation.
Kurt Badenhausen: How does it feel to be named as the greatest athlete of the past 40 years?
Mia Hamm: It was a bit overwhelming because there are so many great female athletes that I’ve looked up to and both watched compete and played alongside. It was overwhelming to be considered at the top of all these athletes I thought so much of when there is Billy Jean King, Chris Evert and Jackie Joyner-Kersee. For me, it was Michelle Akers.
KB: Did you hear from a lot of former teammates after the news came out?
MH: The notes and messages from my former teammates were sincere and genuine and I really appreciated that. I always want to make sure they understand how much they influenced my life. When you play a team sport, similar to being involved in a company, the environment in which you are in allows you to grow. If you feel confined or that you can’t be your own individual, you can only get so far.
My teammates and coaches really created an environment that let me express myself my own way. I always want to make sure they understand that a lot of my individual success and our team success was because of their influence in my life.
KB: Female athletes have made great strides in sports, but if you look around the pro ranks, women sports are struggling. How do you explain that?
MH: Man, if I only knew. I know growing up I was an exception, but even a lot of the young girls that participated didn’t watch. I think that is slowly changing because they can associate more with the athletes on TV and being female. Grabbing hold of the TV audience is how these leagues sustain themselves. That is a big component. It is important that these young girls see themselves as the future. Sometimes in this day and age of instant gratification, you just assume it is going to be there. Growing up, I never thought I’d play on the National Team or play soccer in the Olympics because it wasn’t there. When then opportunity came, I wanted to play as long as I could. I am optimistic. As a female athlete you have to be.
KB: What is your partnership with Dick’s Sporting Goods about?
MH: The campaign is the “Gifts That Matter” campaign. When I think about my life, a gift that really mattered as a young athlete was when I was around 11. I remember when I got my first pair of leather cleats and as a soccer player that was a sign you made it and you’re a real athlete. I looked at that as a transition. My parents felt I was committed and that really motivated me to continue to work at soccer. The cleats had a special place in the closet and they were always clean.
KB: How do you spend your time these days?
MH: We have three kids (five-year-old twin girls and an 11-month old son). I spend a lot of time being a mom and trying to help my kids find their own way. My husband, since he played baseball, and I get asked all the time, what are going to be doing? We understand the importance sports played in our lives, but we want them to express their own voice. I’d love for them to get involved in some way because the lessons and the experiences and relationships you make.
KB: Are you going to be on the field coaching your kids?
MH: I don’t mind helping, but in the end I want to be their mom first and foremost. That is my first priority. If that means I go out and do some sessions for them, that is fine. But I never want them to feel like that relationship is compromised. That is something I have to work on. I had my dad as a coach and it was hard to know is he talking to me as my dad or as my coach. At 10 or 11, it is hard to decipher.
KB: How do you balance your fame with trying to raise your kids with a normal upbringing?
MH: (Laughs) Let me tell you, my kids have no idea who I am. Both of us were brought up in very grounded and realistic households. I’m from a military family and one of six kids. We each had a part to play. I had to find my way to practice a lot on my own, whether that was riding my bike or finding a ride. So I hope I’ve maintained a lot of that perspective. I know my husband has. In the end, life is about relationships and making sure we maintain those in a healthy and positive way. That is what we try to teach out kids. Can we give them a lot of things we didn’t have? Absolutely. The best thing I can give them are values and hopefully good memories. That is what I am trying to do.
KB: Are there athletes, male or female, that you admire for doing things the right way on and off the field?
MH: I’ve been a huge fan of Andre Agassi. He is a guy who, after reading his book, didn’t sound like it was his choice to play, but he was incredibly talented. And what he is doing off the with his schools is unbelievable. This is guy who education was not his main focus growing up, but he’s making sure all these kids understand the value of education. I saw him speak two weeks ago and I think every kid that graduated from his high school is going to college. Andre is someone who used sport to really help others. Everyone asks me what the greatest thing about playing in college and I always say my education. I love what he is doing.
KB: What about your own foundation?
MH: My foundation is about encouraging girls in sports. Dick’s Sporting Goods has been generous enough to give a charitable contribution. We’re going to use that to help underprivileged kids get a gift that matters. I had a brother, who passed away from a bone marrow transplant, so the foundation also really tries to help educate people and to get them registered in the national bone marrow registry. We provide funds to the university hospital where I went to school and Children’s Hospital of L.A. This is my personal cause.
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Mia Hamm on Why Girls Playing Sports Is So Important
Mia Hamm has been a role model for girls since she established herself as one of the greatest female athletes of all time. Hamm held the record for most international goals scored by a soccer player — male or female — until 2013, when fellow American Abby Wambach broke her record. She won FIFA world player of the year twice.
Since her retirement from soccer, Hamm has been active in other pursuits: participating in an ESPN documentary about the 1999 American soccer team that won the Women’s World Cup, heading up the Mia Hamm Foundation and raising her twin daughters.
But now she’s teaming up with LeapFrog to promote the LeapBand, a fitness tracker for kids that lets them play games while staying active. Last weekend, Hamm and LeapFrog met with 400 kids and families in Santa Monica, Calif., to promote family activities. The group set three Guinness World Records for most people making sand angels (292), most people hopping on one leg (321) and most people performing a swim dance (318).
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TIME caught up with Hamm to talk about controversy surrounding the upcoming Women’s World Cup, what it was like to race against Michael Jordan for a Gatorade commercial and how to get more kids to be active.
There’s been a lot of renewed interest in America in soccer after the World Cup this summer. Do you think people are going to be as invested in this upcoming Women’s World Cup as they were in the Men’s ?
I think so. I think with this World Cup what made a huge difference is that people have access that they didn’t have 10 years ago or 20 years ago. I could go home right now and find four channels that have something about soccer going on, and I definitely could not have done when I was playing. I believe Fox Sports 1 has all the coverage , and they are taking it very seriously in terms of the reach that they want to obtain. In the end that’s how you get to the masses is with that type of coverage.
With regards to the U.S. team and the tournament, it’s going to be the best soccer that’s been played to this date. The game’s naturally evolving and getting better.
Some of the women’s players in the U.S. and elsewhere have expressed concerns about playing on turf for the next world cup. What are your thoughts on the turf vs. grass debate?
I would much rather play on grass. I’ve played on turf, and it is a different game. I completely understand why certain venues have turf because of the amount of play, the wear and tear, the weather. But I would love for this tournament — it’s the best of the best in the world, it’s senior players, it’s not a youth world cup — for FIFA to remain consistent, and right now that means playing the game on grass, on a natural surface.
My favorite commercial growing up was the Gatorade commercial that you did with Michael Jordan — the “Anything You Can Do I Can Do Better” commercial — and several female athletes I’ve interviewed since have cited it as an inspiration as well. You were one of the first women to send the message, “I can compete with the boys.” Were you aware that you were a female role model at the time?
Definitely. I took every opportunity as a responsibility to not only help our sport grow but also to support female athletics. I felt it was important. And it was also a way for me to say thank you to all the people that invested in me and who, whether I knew them or not, made changes to compete at this level — whether it was playing in college and the birth of Title IX and making sure that not only did I have access to being able to play in college but I had access to an education.
What was so wonderful was during the taping of that, I wanted to be better than he was at whatever we were doing. It was actually very intense. There was a natural competition. And I love the fact that he was accepting and open to that. We had a blast making it.
You’ve done a lot to encourage young girls in athletics. Why has that been an important cause for you?
I just know how it empowered me. I was a really young, shy kid who was also from a military family, so we moved every 2-3 years. And sports was an easy way to make a connection when we moved to a new base, a new town to people with similar interests. And I think it really helped give me confidence not only with that move but with feeling that I could contribute.
We’re finally starting to see more attention paid to women’s sports. Do you think we will ever reach point where there’s as much encouragement for young girls to play sports as young boys and as much interest in women’s sports as men’s?
I hope so. You just look at women in high-powered positions in top 500 companies and a lot of them will attribute their time in organized sports as something that really made a difference and had an impact in their lives. And I see the confidence it has built in my daughters when they work really hard at something, let’s say it’s soccer. They’re working really hard on passing or shooting or a certain move, and then all of the sudden it just clicks, and you just see this big smile come on their face.
And to see that confidence grow in a young girl is so important because I think boys are naturally encouraged to do those things, and the opportunities to do it for our daughters is so important.
I know that your 1999 World Cup win had a huge impact on my generation in terms of the number of girls it inspired to play soccer. But soccer’s continued to grow in popularity in the U.S. for boys and girls. Why do you think that is?
I think kids who grew up playing and it was part of their everyday lives are now parents. I would probably say if we hadn’t lived in Italy when I was 2 or 3, my dad would have been like, “What is this game? What are these kids playing?” because he didn’t grow up around it. We’re parents now, we understand the game, and our kids are playing.
I also know when I was younger, it was a relatively inexpensive sport to play. You didn’t need a lot of equipment. I was one of six kids in a military family, so it was perfect. Times have changed with club soccer and all the traveling and high-level coaching, but it’s still a sport you can play on a field used for many different sports — football, lacrosse or even the outfield of a baseball field, which is what my daughters do here in California when they play in their little AYSO league.
Soccer player Mia Hamm (C) and LeapFrog attempt to become GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS record holders in celebration of the launch of the new LeapBand Activity Tracker For Kids at the first-ever Fit Made Fun Day at Santa Monica Pier on September 6, 2014 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for LeapFrog) Charley Gallay—Getty Images for LeapFrog
Obviously you and your husband are athletic people. Have you passed those genes to your kids? What do you guys do to stay active?
We want them participating in some type of activity. And they’re motivated to be with their friends. Whether it’s dance or playing soccer or softball. At home, we want it to be fun. We’re not standing over our kids saying ‘give me ten pushups!’ Two days ago, my daughter wanted to play two square, so we put that in the space between our family room and kitchen. And we did that for 20 minutes, just laughing and I think she was talking a little trash at one point. So just having fun with them.
Why did you team up with LeapFrog?
Seventy-five percent of kids aren’t gettingthe 60 minutes a day of physical activity, whether it’s due to cutbacks in their school’s physical education programs, and you know childhood obesity rates are skyrocketing. We just really want to help families and kids understand that physical activity is not necessarily about work. LeapBand is not a calorie tracker or counter. It’s little bursts of activities like jumping in place and popping like popcorn. I know for my kids, they’re always laughing while doing it.
Have you tried any fitness trackers?
Yeah, the Nike FuelBand, I’ve used that. I was more curious: how many steps do I take in a day? I kind of had an idea of my calorie burn when I was playing, but I have no idea right now. I do a camp with a couple of my teammates, and we’ll go out and motivate each other, see what we can do.
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