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FEBRUARY 12, 2024

Striking Success: Mia Hamm on the Field and in Business

There are few people who better exemplify success and inspiration than Mia Hamm. She’s recognized as one of the greatest soccer players of all time. During her 15-year international career, she helped lead the U.S. women’s national soccer team (USWNT) to two FIFA World Cup championships and two Olympic gold medals. Hamm is undoubtedly one of the most important women in U.S. sports history. 

Since retiring in 2004, Hamm has continued to serve as an inspiration to young girls hoping to translate their passion for soccer to success in life. She's maintained an active presence in the soccer community and has been an outspoken advocate for Title IX and gender equality throughout the sports world. Along with achieving near-unparalleled success as a marketing icon, Hamm is also co-owner of both the Los Angeles FC and the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) expansion franchise Angel City FC (BMO is an Angel City Founding Partner and holds the naming rights to the club’s stadium in downtown Los Angeles).

With Angel City, Hamm has continued her role as a trailblazer, showing that with the right investment, women’s sports can be not just an exciting entertainment product, but the foundation of a thriving business. 

Amy Hale, BMO Wealth Management Regional President and Executive Lead, Women & Wealth, recently spoke with Hamm about her career, and the lessons she’s taken from the soccer field to the business world. 

Following is a summary of their discussion.

BMO thanks Hamm and Angel City for her participation on this panel.

Life lessons

Hamm inherited her love of soccer from her father, who developed his affinity for the game after the family moved to Florence, Italy, when Mia was a toddler. By the time the family moved back to the U.S., Hamm and her siblings began to take up the sport. As she grew older, Hamm was often the only girl on her coed teams. The lack of both peers and professional role models represented one of Hamm’s first challenges. 

"I remember the old North American Soccer League, and I would go watch the Washington Diplomats play,” Hamm said. “I didn't see any women playing. I wasn't even thinking about playing collegiately because I didn't know it existed. Today we say, ‘if you can see it, you can be it.’ But back then, there was no dream of playing on the national team. It was just about enjoying where I was at that moment.”

Noting that she was constantly labeled “too intense” as a young girl, it was crucial for Hamm to see other women who competed at a high level. “One of the earliest lessons when I joined the women's national team was that it’s OK to care about wanting to see how good you could be. That was never a message that was shared with me outside of my household. That was an early lesson, that if I believed in my value, I owed it to myself.”

The sport has clearly evolved over the years. The National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) has seen its popularity explode since its founding in 2012, with a 26% increase in attendance in 2023 and two new franchises joining the league this year (and two more planned for 2026). For Hamm, the biggest win is that the league is showing girls and young women what’s possible.

“The success of our league is really important from the standpoint that these young players have the opportunity to play collegiately, and now they see an option to pursue that kind of career path, whether it be on the field or off the field with coaching or leadership development,” Hamm said. “Being able to inspire young girls through the game of soccer, whether they go on to play in high school, collegiately or if they play professionally, just getting them to learn more about themselves, finding confidence and helping them understand their value is so important.

Leadership lessons

While Hamm is recognized as a leader, she noted that it’s important for women to find their own leadership style. She quickly learned that while it’s fine to admire someone else’s approach, that doesn’t mean it’s the right one for you. 

“A lot of times you learn your leadership style through a lot of failure,” Hamm said. “[Former USWNT captain] Julie Foudy’s a really vocal leader—that's what I'm going to be. And then no one listens to you. [My leadership comes from] going out and kicking butt and how you spread the importance of what the game means to you. That was a hard lesson, and it was painful at times to understand how to lead.”

Knowing when not to lead can be just as important. “All of us have to be flexible and humble enough to know when to lead and when to follow,” Hamm said. “When you're asked to lead, are you committed to it? And when you're asked to follow, are you able to swallow some of your pride and your ego and say, this is what needs to be done?”

"Another thing I learned in my career was that details matter,” Hamm added. “You can't wait for someone to say, ‘OK, now you're on,’ for you to be ready and perform. If you have respect for yourself and the people that you work with and the product you produce, then it matters. It doesn't mean you're not going to have an off day—we all do. But I think you hear a lot of people sometimes say, ‘why didn't you tell me you were watching?’ I shouldn't have to tell you. What I share with young players is that you're always being watched, and you're always being evaluated. And that's not to put pressure on you—I want you to embrace that.”

Such lessons have also served Hamm well in the business world. While she initially didn’t have the confidence she felt on the soccer field, Hamm quickly learned to play to her strengths.

"I was told a long time ago that you're the master of your own story, you just have to learn to tell it better,” Hamm said. "Rather than being so concerned about what I wasn't and what I couldn't do, I focused on the areas where I was comfortable. I remember coming into LA FC and I thought, I don't need to be the general manager. I will not be asked to be the chief marketing officer or anything like that. Let's put myself into situations where I can best help the club, whether that's talking to potential sponsors, or sharing my experience of why I think this game is so great and how I think it can benefit our community. The majority of the business decisions I've been able to make along with my team are very thoughtful. As our mental skills coach said a long time ago, it's not the times you say no that impact your life, it's the times you say yes. So, it’s about being incredibly thoughtful and that I can be invested when I say yes.”

Paying it forward

Along with her role as a club owner, Hamm is also dedicated to her philanthropic endeavors. In 1999, two years after the death of her older brother Garrett from complications of aplastic anemia, she launched the Mia Hamm Foundation, which promotes awareness of and raises funds for families in need of bone marrow or cord blood transplants. And because Hamm credits Garrett for being the athlete she became, the foundation also creates opportunities to empower girls and young women through sports.

“It's not about playing professionally. It's finding confidence through whatever sport pulls at your heartstrings,” Hamm said. “My brother and I shared such a unique relationship, and so many of our memories were on a field or on a court. To help young girls find their voice and who they are is so important because I wouldn't be here without sports in my life.”




Amy Hale
Regional President - Southeast
BMO Wealth Management
Amy Hale, Regional President for the Southeast with BMO Wealth Management …
Amy Hale, Regional President for the Southeast with BMO Wealth Management U.S. Amy oversees a team of professionals dedic…
Amy Hale, Regional President for the Southeast with BMO Wealth Management U.S. Amy oversees a team of professionals dedicated to providing high net worth individuals, fami…