Failure happens all the time. It happens every day in practice. What makes you better is how you react to it.”
Mia Hamm was born March 17, 1972, in Selma, Ala. Surprisingly, the soccer champion—named women’s FIFA World Player of the year in 2001 and 2002, and listed as one of FIFA’s 125 best living players (as chosen by Pelé)—was born with a club foot and had to wear corrective shoes as a small child.
These challenges didn’t stop her, however. She has noted, “If you don’t love what you do, you won’t do it with much conviction or passion,” and clearly, she loved playing sports. She was athletic throughout her childhood and, by age 15, became the youngest player ever to join the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team. In 1991, when the team won the FIFA Women’s World Cup for the first time, 19-year-old Hamm became the youngest American woman to win a World Cup championship.
Afterward, Hamm continued her education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where her team won four NCAA championships and lost just one game out of the 95 she played. Recognizing her role, the team named her Female Athlete of the Year in 1993 and 1994. Hamm brushed off praise for her individual success, saying, “I am a member of a team, and I rely on the team, I defer to it and sacrifice for it, because the team, not the individual, is the ultimate champion.”
On May 22, 1999, Hamm broke the all-time international goal record with her 108th goal in a game against Brazil. She said of her work to achieve that goal, “I am building a fire, and every day I train, I add more fuel. At just the right moment, I light the match.”
Like any player, Hamm has experienced setbacks, but she takes a philosophical approach. “Failure happens all the time,” she has said. “It happens every day in practice. What makes you better is how you react to it.”
Of course, Hamm grew accustomed to great success during her career. The capstone was the 2004 Summer Olympic Games, when she helped lead Team USA to a gold medal, and her fellow U.S. Olympians chose her to carry the American flag at the Athens Closing Ceremonies. Hamm retired in 2004, at age 32, with 158 international goals—still the international record for men or women players.
Passion… Pass It On