Generosity, in the form of gifts, donations or scholarships, helped launch the careers of numerous National Teamers. Giving back is also the core spirit that drives our book project.
“At the time, I didn’t even realize (the financial assistance) was happening,” said 2019 World Cup champion Jessica McDonald, who was discovered at age 12 by the Sereno Soccer Club of Phoenix. As detailed in the pages of Raising Tomorrow’s Champions, Jessica’s family didn’t have the money for dues and travel for tournaments, but the community always stepped up with support. “As I got older, everything hit me: ‘Oh, my gosh, no wonder why I was always at my teammates’ houses.’ It was as if I had 18 other parents! I’m very grateful that people were willing to pay for my brother and me to play club soccer because we wouldn’t be where we are today without it.”
National Teamer Danesha Adams, likewise, was already on U.S. Soccer’s youth team radar at age 15 when her family dynamics changed suddenly. While Danesha was away at an international tournament in Chicago, her mother moved from southern California all the way to Ohio — but Danesha didn’t want to leave her club team behind. For most of her high school career, the friends and families of the FC Slammers of Newport Beach purchased first-class roundtrip plane tickets. Danesha boarded the 5:05 p.m. flight west on Friday evenings, and took the red-eye back to Ohio at 11:58 p.m. on Sundays, then lived with various families during summers and other extended periods for tournaments. “That’s what got me into UCLA, being a part of that club and the support of all those Moms and Dads. I’m still close to many of them today.”
Believing that the benefits of playing soccer ought to be available to everyone, regardless of their social or economic situation, we have pledged a portion of the proceeds from the sale of each book to numerous non-profit causes. We are also making the book available as a fundraiser to soccer clubs and other organizations that tie the soccer experience to social causes such as gender, race and LGBTQ+ issues.
“We wanted to create a program that would give young girls a chance to play, teach them about health and wellness, that it’s OK to be bold, to have a voice,” said Brandi Chastain, the soccer Hall of Famer who co-founded of one of our partner organizations, BAWSI (pronounced bossy), the Bay Area Women’s Sports Initiative.
“One of the things we do at the Mia Hamm Foundation is to encourage and empower girls through sport, and it doesn’t mean you have to be on the National Team,” Mia told us. “At the end of the day, it’s not about who plays at the highest level, it’s just about all those life lessons you learn through sport and how that can impact your life going forward.”
It’s amazing for everyone involved when young women like Jessica and Danesha, and several others, take that spark provided by generosity and take their games to the highest level. The most moving stories and photographs in our book, however, came from the girls most people will never hear about; they just love, and benefit from, the game. Thank you, in advance, for helping to make a few more of those possible.