We’ve all had that one special Christmas gift that we will never forget. Maybe it was the anticipation, the want, the need to tear through that snowman covered paper and try on the new pair of pants from the store window, put batteries in the remote-control car for its first race, or setting up teddy bear’s new home that made it so memorable.

For the iconic athlete and former pro-soccer player Mia Hamm, it was her first pair of leather cleats at age 11.

“Soccer cleats are your own,” she says. “Leather cleats meant you were legit, that you had made it.”

Those two shoes had their very own, special place in her closet. It was the first gift she truly took care of. It’s those presents that inspire us beyond the “want” and ignite a passion that burns throughout our lives…because they are gifts that truly matter.

Most recently, Hamm has partnered with DICK’s Sporting Goods, the largest U.S. based full-line sporting goods retailer, to promote the Gifts that Matter Program. The campaign celebrates giving gifts that encourage athletes to strive to achieve greatness. The social media based program wants everyone to share their special gift that became extra motivation to work harder in your sport.

But, you don’t have to be in professional sports to find your inner athlete.

“You can stay active in the simplest ways,” reiterates Hamm who has faced her own struggles with maintaining the athlete lifestyle. Sports aren’t just about flashy apparel or being the star athlete. In fact, Hamm emphasizes the social aspect of being on a team.

Mia Hamm as a kid with a Gift that Matters!

Though she “sees flashes” of star athlete potential in her kids, she stays grounded in the true meaning of the game. The most important thing a sport can teach is supporting a passion and working hard for something you love. For her it was soccer, for her husband it was baseball.

Again, however, she laughs and says that it would be awesome to see her girls go on to be soccer players—especially since she no longer dawns her number 9 jersey. It would also be that much easier to keep her life active.

“It was hard when I didn’t have anyone telling me to go run a few laps anymore,” she laughs. “But I enjoy staying healthy because it just feels better.”

Mia grew up around involved parents. Her dad refereed and coached her various teams. So, she wants to lead the same example. But, during the winter hustle and bustle it gets extremely difficult.

It’s all about “understanding moderation throughout the holidays,” says Hamm.  “I don’t go running around eating ham and stuffed turkey every day from Thanksgiving through New Year”—though it’s tempting.

As a mother of three (two twin girls and one boy) she focuses rather on truly cherishing the family moments during the holidays.

“We put up our tree two weeks ago,” she says. “It may sound basic, but that’s our tradition. We put on Christmas music and hang our ornaments and that means something to us.”

Finding those family moments and starting new traditions can happen at any time. In fact, when her siblings were older, Mia’s mother started giving them each an ornament every year. Like mother, like daughter, she has started that tradition with her kids. Hopefully, says Mia, by the time they are 20, they will have enough to start a tree of their own.

This moderation also applies to the “getting” mentality during the holidays.

“It’s our responsibility to teach our children to be responsible citizens,” Hamm says whose foundation and charity involvement encourage active participation paying it forward—beyond just your immediate family.

So, whether you are a top rated athlete or you are a busy mom that gets exercise in-between feedings and diaper changes, you have all had a gift that matters, and you can all appreciate the work Mia Hamm is putting into this program.

Find out more about the program on the Facebook page here. Read more about Mia Hamm’s Foundation and contributions around the world at her site here. By sharing your “gift that mattered” by using the #GiftsThatMatter hashtag on Twitter or Instagram, you will automatically by entered in a DICK’s sweepstakes!

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