Mia’s impact on the world’s soccer stage is unmatched. Heralded as a standout player in the youth ranks, lauded as an exemplary player in college and regarded as the world’s most outstanding woman soccer player at the national and international level, she consistently attracted unprecedented attention to the game. Mia eventually became one of the most famous women athletes in the world and an inspiration and role model to a generation of sports-minded girls. Largely considered the best female soccer player in history, she played with the US women’s national team for 17 years.
Born Mariel Margaret Hamm on March 17, 1972, in Selma, Alabama, into a military family, Mia moved often throughout her childhood. She credits her brother, Garrett, for encouraging her in sports. When she was little, Mia was so athletic and fast that her older brother used her as a “secret weapon” in games such as capture the flag. She started organized soccer at age 5. She played at Notre Dame High School in Wichita Falls, TX, and later moved to northern Virginia to finish her high school career at Lake Braddock HS in Burke, where she earned All-American honors.
Mia enrolled in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1989, where she led the Tar Heels to four NCAA championships. Named All-American and Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year three years in a row, she was the recipient of the Honda-Broderick Award as the nation’s outstanding female collegiate athlete for 1993-94. She led the nation in scoring at the collegiate level in 1990, 1992, and 1993 and graduated with an all-time record for most conference goals (103), assists (72) and total points (278). A two-time Missouri Athletic Club and Hermann Award winner, 1992-93, Mia had her UNC number (19) retired in 1994. In 1993, she was a member of the U.S. women’s national college team that earned a silver medal in the XVII Summer Universiade, held in Buffalo, NY.
Mia at 15 became the youngest person ever to be a member of the U.S. National Team and, at 19, the youngest woman ever to win a World Cup. She scored 158 goals in international competition, more than any other player in history and was instrumental in the US team’s World Cup victories in 1991 and 1999 and in the team’s Olympic Gold Medals in 1996 and 2004. During her career she played in four World Cups, in 1991, 1995, 1999 and 2003, and in three Olympic Games, in 1996, 2000 and 2004. She played in 275 full international games between 1987 and 2004 and was MVP of the Women’s World Cup in Sweden in 1995. She was chosen by her fellow U.S. Olympians in 2004 to carry the American flag at the Athens Closing Ceremonies.
Mia was named the FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year in 2001 and 2002 and the U.S. Soccer Federation Female Athlete of the Year five years in a row (1994-1998). In 2004 Mia, along with teammate Michelle Akers, was placed on FIFA’s list of the 125 greatest living soccer players. They were the only women and only Americans named. She was named in 1997 as one of People magazine’s 50 Most Beautiful people, one of Esquire magazine’s “100 Best People in the World” and the Women’s Sports Foundation Athlete of the Year for 1997.
In 2007, her first year of eligibility, she was selected for induction into the National Soccer Hall of Fame. She was also the US Soccer Federation’s Female Athlete of the Year five years in a row (1994-1998) and the winner of three ESPY awards, including Soccer Player of the Year and Female Athlete of the Year. In 1999, Nike named the largest building on its corporate campus after Mia. A founding member of the Women United Soccer Association, Mia played three seasons for the Washington Freedom. She was WUSA champion and an All-Star with Washington in 2003.
Mia married major league baseball player Anthony “Nomar” Garciaparra in November 2003. They have twin daughters, Grace Isabella and Ava Caroline. Mia is the author of Go for the Goal: A Champion’s Guide to Winning in Soccer and Life (Harper Collins, 1999).
In 1999, Mia began the Mia Hamm Foundation, dedicated to assisting with bone marrow transplant patients and families and to supporting young women’s sports programs. She was inspired to create her foundation by her adoptive brother and original athletic inspiration, Garrett, who died of a bone marrow disease shortly after the 1996 Olympics. Shortly after her retirement in 2004, Mia made a comment that speaks eloquently of her character, “The sport of soccer has been so good to me and I only hope that I have left it in a better place than when I started playing years ago. As I embark upon the next stage in my life, I will continue to give back and have more time to dedicate to the causes which are near and dear to me.”
Parts of this biographical statement are obtained from: US Soccer Hall of Fame; Women’s Soccer World; Biography.com; Wikipedia; and MiaFoundation.org.