Mia Hamm is arguably one of the world’s greatest athletes, having scored more international career goals than any other soccer player, male or female. But since her brother Garrett died in 1997 from complications related to a rare blood disorder, she has found another way to play offense. Out of her cleats since 2004, Mia now devotes her time to the Mia Hamm Foundation, a nonprofit that she created in 1999. The organization raises funds and awareness for families needing marrow or cord blood transplants, and develops and promotes programs for young women in sports. The foundation hosts all-star exhibition soccer matches, and during halftime, marrow recipients are brought together with their donors for the first time. These emotional encounters, Mia says, are her most cherished moments away from the field.
At age 15, Mia became the youngest woman ever to play with the U.S. National Team. She led the U.S. to the World Championship at FIFA Women’s World Cup in 1999 and was a member of the U.S. Olympic Team in 1996, 2000 and 2004, earning two gold medals and one silver. In 2001, Mia became a founding member of the Women’s United Soccer Association and then led the Washington Freedom to the Founder’s Cup.
The level of Mia’s game so impressed Nike Chairman Phil Knight that he named the largest building on Nike’s corporate campus after her and talks about her in the same class as Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods. Mia was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2007, her first year of eligibility. She now represents Futbol Club Barcelona, promoting the club’s members and philosophy worldwide. These days, Mia’s heroes are young people coping with serious illnesses, and the families that love and support them along a difficult journey. They inspire her passion and remind her—as one teenager wrote after meeting Mia–that it’s just as important to make every second count in life as it is on the soccer field.