• 66°

Soccer star Mia Hamm returns to birth place

Soccer legend Mia Hamm will speak in her hometown Thursday at a benefit banquet for a new Soccer Vision Academy in Selma.

The academy will be officially announced at a dinner starting at 6 p.m. at the George P. Evans Reception Hall. Hamm, who was born in Selma in 1972, will also speak during her first trip to Selma in more than a decade.

“I’m very proud and very grateful for the opportunity to come back and help out in any way I can,” Hamm said.

Winston Williams, a former soccer coach at Concordia College Alabama, and Derek Arneaud, a 2004 Paralympian in soccer, are behind a group starting the new academy, which aims to help youth serious about soccer fine-tune their skills.

“We are looking for those parents who understand it costs to get your kids to another level,” Williams said. “Everybody up there paid a price and if you’re willing to pay the price, we have the opportunity. We have never had that in this city before.”

The academy will cost $35 per month for children five to eight years old and $50 for those nine to 16 years old.

“We are hoping we have enough scholarships to pick up those that fall through the cracks,” Williams said. “That’s what it takes to really build the player that will go to the next level. That’s what it takes to be able to compete either here, Europe, the Caribbean or South America.”

Williams said there’s no better ambassador for the city of Selma than Hamm, who always references the place she was born when she speaks.

“Wherever she goes, she has been a one person ambassador for Selma,” Williams said.

Hamm was born to parents Bill and Stephanie Hamm, but only lived in Selma about a year before the family moved. She said her godparents Jim and Bert Durry still live in the Selma area.

She remembers one trip to Alabama where many shared stories about her parents. Back when they lived in Selma, Bill and Stephanie were in their mid 20s.

“One of the most impactful experiences is when I went through with my parents, and people pulling me over and talking to me about my parents and sharing stories,” Hamm said. “… It made me proud to be their daughter.”

Hamm’s family moved around a lot when she was a child, and she was first introduced to soccer while in Italy.

Each time she moved, she said soccer helped her quickly make friends and become a part of the community.

She joined the U.S. Women’s National Team at age 15.

She helped Team USA capture two gold medals and win two FIFA women’s World Cups, including the inaugural event in 1991. She retired following the 2004 Olympics in Athens as one of the most decorated female athletes of all-time.

At that time, Hamm was the United States’ all-time leader in international goals with 158. She was also voted FIFA Player of the Year the first two years the award was handed out.

Hamm is still very involved in the game of soccer. She is scheduled to host a Team First Soccer Academy camp in Auburn on Friday.

“I would love to help any child, not necessarily be the next star on the national team, but just find confidence in themselves,” Hamm said. “If that helps them in the classroom, fantastic. If that helps them be a better member of society, even better.”

The dinner will cost $35 for adults, but Williams said children under 12 accompanied by a parent will be allowed to enter for any kind of donation. All proceeds from the dinner will go toward the academy.

For more information on the dinner or the academy, contact Williams at 407-6481.