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She’s an Olympic gold medalist, the most prolific scorer–male or female–for Team USA in the history of international competition, and she even beat Michael Jordan one-on-one in that Gatorade commercial, but Mia Hamm is facing her newest challenge: Inspiring New York City girls to chase their dreams.
The 39-year-old women’s soccer legend will be in New York this Friday to speak to 300 local high school girls in a HerWorld event organized by DeVry University. The event is named after the 15-year-old program that provides young women with guidance and advice for career paths in science, technology, engineering, and math.
What have you been up to lately?
Well, I just gave birth to my third child this past January, and my twin girls are turning five, so I have been busy just being a mom.
How and why did you get involved with HerWorld program?
What really drove me was that [the program] places emphasis on furthering the education for high school female athletes. Anything that focuses on empowering young women is something I’m interested in.
When you were growing up, there wasn’t professional soccer for women, so how did you stay focused to pursue the sport when there wasn’t a certain future?
I didn’t! I played because I loved the game of soccer, I never thought it’d turn into my career. I think sports was very important in helping me develop confidence and ability to work in a team.
So you’ll be speaking to a group of high school girls this Friday, what are you going to say to them?
I want to express to them that I’m no different from them, that we have a lot of similarities. I grew up, one of six kids, from a lower-middle class family. I did chores, I went to school, and I played sports.
What’s the main message you want to get across?
I want the girls to think down the line, to invest in the future, and most importantly, I want them to pursue what they want to do regardless if the field is dominated by males. DeVry and I both want to support girls who are interested in science, technology and math. They’re fields that are male-dominated, just like soccer, but I didn’t care.
Soccer, in general, hasn’t picked up in popularity here the way basketball and baseball and football has, does that frustrate you and why do you think that is?
I think it’s growing slowly. The American tradition has always been baseball and football so it takes time. The current generation of fans may influence the next generation to participate.
What do you think of Team USA’s chances at this year’s Olympics?
There are still a lot of games between now and the OIympics, their main concern is to stay healthy. I think they learned a lot after last summer’s [match against Canada]. They’ll be okay.