Mia Hamm, 28, easily breaks scoring record

At 28, Mia Hamm is 13 years into her soccer career and stardom. Fans know that Hamm became the youngest player to play for the national team at the age of 15. Subsequently, she became famous at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, helping the team win four consecutive NCAA women's championships.

Hamm continued to win throughout the 1990s, winning two FIFA Women's World Cup titles and winning a gold medal with the U.S. women's soccer team at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. By 2000, at the age of 28, Hamm had really hit her stride—and improved her understanding of the sport as she prepared to compete in the Olympics again.

"I wouldn't say things were easy, but they just made more sense," Hamm tells Bustle. "I can read the defense and communicate with my teammates better. There's a comfort level at that age that I didn't have earlier in my career."

Today, Hamm is working with Incyte to raise awareness of graft-versus-host disease (GVHD). “I want people to know we’re here to support them and cheer them on,” Hamm said. "Their journey is long, but they have someone in their corner to encourage them and celebrate them." Next, Hamm elaborates on what drives her work for bone marrow transplant awareness and reflects on her daily training and work on Time in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Let me go back to 2000, when you were 28 years old. How did you feel at that stage of your football career?

I feel good. When you're young, you make a lot of mistakes in the physical realm. It’s all about running faster. Then, as you get older, you won't make the same mistakes again because of experience. Instead, you'll put yourself in a better position on the field. You know the game, and you're still as fit and fast as you were in your early 20s.

Where were you living at the time?

I was in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I love it. It was a great environment for me to continue training as we didn't have our own league until 2001 so living there gave me an environment to be able to use the facilities and sometimes join in with the varsity team to play pickup games .

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What is your daily life like?

Everything revolves around football. I wake up around eight o'clock, and then around ten o'clock I'll go out and do some type of workout, whether it's strength training, fitness, or ball skills. Then I'll go home, have lunch, do some rest and rehab, and then in the afternoon I'll do some type of group training.

Then I'll go play golf. For me, golf is a way to relieve frustration, especially when I play poorly or miss some shots. But it's also a game where you have to be "down to earth" to succeed. I'm still playing. I love what golf demands of me every day.

You founded the Mia Hamm Foundation when you were about 28 years old. Please tell me more about it.

We established the Mia Hamm Foundation to help raise awareness for people who have received bone marrow transplants and empower young girls to participate in sports. In 1997, my brother Garrett died from complications from a bone marrow transplant. We realized our family needed a lot of help. My brother was adopted, so we had a hard time finding a match for him on the National Donor Registry. It also put a lot of financial pressure on my parents and our family, so we wanted to try to find ways to help families get similar treatment. He fought extremely hard, with grace and humour, until the last day. To me, this foundation is a way to celebrate the connections we have.

You also competed in the 2000 Sydney Olympics when you were 28 years old. What was it like competing in Australia and winning a silver medal?

It's great to be in our second Olympics, but it's difficult from the standpoint that we really believe our team can win a gold medal. We were very close, but we lost in the gold medal game. We shed a lot of tears but to get this far is an amazing achievement and it inspires us to compete in the next Olympics.

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You scored your 127th career goal at the Sydney Olympics, breaking the record. How does this make you feel?

I didn't calculate my goals. I was more like, "Wow, I scored in the Olympics." More importantly, I was focused on helping my team win. I scored in the semi-final to get us into the final, so that was the focus rather than celebrating the numbers. You say, "Hooray, we won and we can go to the Olympic finals."

What is your life like outside of football?

I like cooking. When I have free time and I'm at home, I still enjoy cooking, mostly Italian food with red sauce. That and golf. My days are mainly focused on training. I’m also traveling and doing different appearances, whether it’s for sponsors or speaking engagements—that sort of thing.

At 28, you are at the peak of your career. Have you ever felt too stressed?

No, but that's because I'm one of six kids. My siblings put me in my place early on. One of my sisters said, "Just because you're on TV doesn't mean you're better than us."

It was hard for me to be in the spotlight at first. This is a team game, so my success depends on the people around me and vice versa. People want you to say, "You're the best, tell us why you're the best," but my teammates push me every day to be better and take responsibility, and they support me in the process, Even when the people around me are miserable.

What do you do that hurts your butt?

We are all intense. We are all competitors. If I mess up or don't succeed, I get upset.

How do you deal with it when you lose a game?

There is usually a lot of silence and introspection. I'll go over different scenarios in the game and how to do them better. You need to learn from it, but I think at this point sometimes you want to yell at yourself in the mirror. It helps you refocus and say, "How could I have done better?" and try not to make the same mistake in the future.

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You seem very down to earth and living in the moment. Did you learn that from football?

This is actually one of my biggest issues when playing. I'm always thinking about what's next instead of enjoying the moment. When I think about my regrets in my career, I find it to be a big one: not enjoying everyday life.

This is one of the reasons why I love golf so much. You can't afford frustration during a game because it will only hinder you. Any tension during the golf swing is bad. On the football pitch, if I'm stuck, or my touch isn't good enough, or my passes aren't accurate, I can always work really hard and make a difference. Effort is important. But in golf, the harder you work, the worse the results become.

At 28, would you be proud of who you are today?

I hope so. I hope she'll be proud and say it's not perfect, but that's okay.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity .