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Ask Anything: 10 questions with soccer star Mia Hamm

Posted April 14, 2009
Updated April 15, 2009

After all the years of such intense soccer playing, what does your life look like now? Do you still play? – Shelley Brocksmith, Raleigh

I still love to play but certainly not at the same level as I did when I played professionally. Occasionally, I step in with the U.S. National Team since they train near our home, but it becomes harder and harder each time.

Mia, what was your biggest accomplishment? And what would you say what was the hardest part about achieving the accomplishments? – Alex, Raleigh

It is difficult to choose one specific accomplishment. Fortunately, my soccer career at Carolina, the Washington Freedom and the U.S. National Team was filled with a lot of incredible memories. The ’99 World Cup may have been the most rewarding simply because the event and championship meant so much to the sport of soccer in this country and for young girls all over the world. We worked so hard to make the event a success and to win it at a packed Rose Bowl and in front of millions of people watching on TV was very special.

Both my children love to play soccer. How old were you when you started playing soccer? Do you have any advice for kids who want to go further with their soccer skills? – Jennifer Johnson, Pikeville

I started at a very young age because my older brother and sister loved to play. My biggest piece of advice is to make sure soccer is fun for your kids. I actually played many different sports growing up and simply was drawn to soccer because I enjoyed playing. If kids are having fun then they will continue to work to get better.

I coach a girls U-12 soccer team. Parents frequently ask me if their daughters should focus on soccer or play multiple sports. Below age 14, I encourage kids to play as many different sports as possible. After that I usually say, “What does your child want to do?” What advice would you give parents and at what age would you recommend that kids that have the desire and skill begin to focus primarily on any one sport? – Wesley Beddard, Washington

I am a firm believer that kids should play multiple sports. Both physically and mentally, it was great for me to play basketball and other sports. I know there is a lot of pressure for kids to focus on one sport, and there is nothing wrong with playing something year-round, but I loved soccer for a long time because I chose it while playing other sports.

Why did you choose UNC? – David Morris, Raleigh

Carolina represented everything I wanted in a college experience – a tremendous academic institution and a championship level soccer program with a family atmosphere. You could tell that being a student-athlete at Carolina was incredibly special and it did not disappoint.

Recently, there has been a lot of discussion regarding head trauma/concussions in soccer. Has this risk of playing soccer always been a part of the game or has it increased due to the level of competition and secondly, have any measures been taken to reduce the risks? GO LB Bruins!! – Neil Peek, Raleigh

Soccer has always been a physical sport but there is no question that the athletes are getting bigger, faster and stronger. I am not familiar with any studies, but it would not surprise me if the number of injuries is increasing due to the growth of the game.

I've noticed the U.S. seems to play a different type of game, both men and women than the Central and South American teams. They seem to play more of on the ground and passing. We seem to be more of in the air with less accurate passing. Do you think we need to go more to the South American type of game? – Ronnie Beasley, Nashville

There are many styles of soccer/football that lead to success. I am a fan of the possession game but we have realized plenty of success playing more direct as well. Different styles throughout the world is what makes soccer so special and I am sure you will see changes here and abroad as the game grows and develops.

I'm appalled that in our great nation of sports enthusiasts that an entire league could fail, like the women's professional soccer league. It certainly goes a long way to support that the glass ceiling is still very prominent for women ... after all, a whole segment of professionalism is cut off to us. How do you and the other women against whom you competed feel about being flung aside? And, what message do you think that tells the millions of girls and young women in America? – Dolly Sickles, Apex

The failure of the WUSA can be attributed to a number of factors and not just lack of support. We were so disappointed when the league folded but we hoped the experience would not be wasted. The new WPS is off to a great start and hopefully the league organizers have learned from the past and can build off this positive momentum.

I used to be a really good soccer player and was even captain of my team. It was one of the greatest pleasures of my life. However, since getting married and becoming a mom, I have stopped playing and have gotten out of shape. How would you suggest I get back into soccer and back into shape?! – Tina Cunningham, Raleigh

I can definitely relate your challenge. It is so difficult to find time and to find a game when you have children and other responsibilities. I try to channel my energy into cross training (running, biking) and I grab a soccer ball to play with my twin girls whenever possible. As for more organized soccer, there are adult leagues out there so you may want to check with the area rec leagues to see what they offer for you.

As one of soccer's most decorated players and an inspiration to many women who have played the sport, you carry a weight and obligation that not many would understand. But, when you get a chance to let loose, what's probably a habit, trait or guilty pleasure you have that people would be surprised to know?? – Carey Johnson, Durham

It is definitely difficult to find those times to “let loose” with 2-year-old twins and our schedules. My husband and I both like to cook and therefore enjoy food. We also have had the opportunity to learn about the wine business, so there is no question that a nice dinner with a great bottle of wine is something that we cherish.

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5 Comments

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  • BigUNCFan Apr 21, 2:24 p.m.

    Dolly Sickles is representative of the blame everyone else syndrome in America. The WUSA was a business and frankly businesses succeed and fail all of the time and it has nothing to do with sexism and glass ceilings and everything to do with appeal to the masses and sales volume.

    Hey, think about it. About 50% of our population are women and if they had come out in droves to support the WUSA, it would not have folded so you cannot blame sexism for that.

    Same thing with the dismal attendance for the WNBA. If you do not support a league, it fails.

    I am so tired of the PC garbage that we are supposed to watch certain womens sports because we have to and if we don't we are terrible people. For an example of success in the business of women's sports, you only have to look to tennis which makes a ton of money.

    If you put a good product on the field and market it, people will come. Don's blame men when a women's league folds as women could keep a league going with attendance

  • sst100 Apr 14, 6:29 p.m.

    Womble_Fred... maybe you should cut her a break. I know her very well (we have been friends for sometime) and I have to say that she is just not a very outgoing person. What some people perceive as being snobby is closer to shyness in her case. She is the LAST person to think she is better than others; in fact, one of the reasons she has succeeded is her desire to improve and be more accepted in everything she does. Again, I understand why you think that, but in all honesty, you could not be more wrong.

  • pickyeater Apr 14, 3:12 p.m.

    Dang...Dolly Sickles of Apex sounds a bit bitter.

  • Schpartacus Apr 14, 12:39 p.m.

    Isn't she married to Nomah?!?

  • Womble_Fred Apr 14, 9:40 a.m.

    Mia Hamm is a great soccer player, and a rude snob. My company hosted a golf tournament for the WUSA and Ms. Hamm stared right through our volunteer coordinator when the players' van arrived. The coordinator had the nerve to say "Good morning!" Most of the other (non "superstar") players were awesome and very appreciative. Carla Overbeck, for one, is about the coolest person you'll meet and a real hoot. It's too bad the WUSA didn't make it, but when your premier player (Hamm) thinks she is better than the little people, a sport like soccer is going to have a very difficult time as we saw.