First Lady of U.S. soccer
When the logo for Women's Professional Soccer -- the new top-flight league starting in 2009 -- was unveiled this week, the player silhouette in the middle was unmistakable.
But the grand dame of women's soccer is doing more these days than just posing for logos. The proud (and happily retired) mother of nine-month-old twins,
All proceeds from the event (which features Hamm, Garciaparra,
It's a subject that's close to Hamm's heart: Her brother,
Hamm rarely gives interviews anymore, but this week SI.com spoke to her about her event as well as her thoughts on the state of the U.S. women's national team, the
To give you some brief history, it started in '97 with five families [in Milwaukee] that had brought me into their club to do a clinic for their girls' team. It was a week after I'd found out my brother had to have a bone-marrow transplant. Financially, we weren't sure if insurance was going to cover the procedure. The initial findings were that it was going to be hard to find him a full match, so all these things were happening at once. I went up there with some leaflets and a pickle jar basically begging people for money and giving them information about getting registered in the National Bone Marrow Registry.
Two weeks later, I got a call from them saying we have an idea to help raise more money for your brother and hopefully get the word out there. So we held an indoor game in Milwaukee with women's national-team players against an all-star team of college seniors from the Milwaukee-Chicago area. We did that for four or five years, but with the league [WUSA] and national-team commitments the game kind of went away.
So last year, we got to talking about how we'd love to bring the game back. It was called the Garrett Game before in honor of my brother, and we thought L.A. would be a great area with the rich soccer tradition here and the celebrity aspect. We moved it outdoors to the Home Depot Center, and it's going to be half-field, small-sided 6-on-6. We've got a lot of great past and present players, both male and female, and some celebrities who are going to lace 'em up and have some fun and hopefully raise some money. Money is extremely important to these families, but so is awareness. There will be a booth set up doing bone-marrow typings to put them into the marrow bank, which to me is just as important if not more so than the money we raise.
My focus was on representing the players, so a lot of my due diligence was talking to the players who played the last three years and really listening to them about going forward. I didn't just talk to veteran players. I talked to players who'd been there a long time, players who'd been there for maybe eight years, and players who'd just joined the team. Just to get their perspective. Then going outside and talking to coaches in America and abroad and saying, What do you see happening with this program? When you see the U.S. play, what are their strengths? What are their weaknesses? And then trying to make the best decision that I possibly could.
But it's also getting so much more competitive. You have to play your best every single match, and almost every single minute of every single match. I know in talking to them they're committed to first and foremost qualifying for the Olympics and playing better and achieving what they feel they can achieve, and that's a gold medal.
In watching them play, I didn't sit there for one minute and say I wasn't proud of them. I'm extremely proud of them. I love this game, I love that team, and I still have a lot of players on that team that I trained with, whether for a week or two years, and I'll always be cheering for them to do well. I'll do whatever they ask me to do to help them, whether it's being on the [coach] selection committee or talking to players or just watching from wherever I am.
She obviously has a lot to prove to her teammates, and I think she's committed to doing that. I have so much confidence in Pia and how she's going to handle that situation, and it looks as if Hope's committed to that. But at the same time, it's like anything. Just as a team sits there and says we want to qualify and win the Olympic gold medal, you can't just say it once. You have to commit yourself to it every single day. I think Hope understands that, and I hope for her sake and the sake of the team -- because she is such a good goalkeeper -- that she does that.