By PHIL BARBER
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
To answer your first question: No, Tracy Hamm is not related to Mia, the doyenne of American soccer.
“Although she was definitely one of my favorite players when I was little,” said Tracy, the new women’s soccer coach at Santa Rosa Junior College. “Definitely my role model. No relation, but it was a convenient last name to have growing up.”
Hamm will have to get by on more than her name at SRJC. Just six years removed from her collegiate playing days at Cal, she now steps into her first head-coaching job. And she isn’t walking into a honeymoon. After the Bear Cubs won the community-college state championship in December, the school opted not to rehire former coach Luke Oberkirch, who had filled a temporary position. That decision was unpopular with some of the returning soccer players.
Hamm is confident in her coaching ability. She also understands that she needs to gain the trust of her athletes.
“I think it’s not really necessarily as difficult for me as it is for them,” Hamm said. “They came off a winning season, and I’m sure they have really high expectations for themselves, which is phenomenal. I love that. They set the standard really high, and I’m definitely all about exceeding expectations.”
Hamm is 28, and looks like she could be younger. She comes across as sweet-natured, but her former coach at Cal cautions against underestimating her.
“I think she’ll be a tough coach — in a good way,” said Kevin Boyd, now the women’s coach at Arizona State. “She’ll be demanding, and she’ll challenge players. She’s always supportive. But she’ll have expectations she wants them to meet, because she met every expectation set for her when she played.”
Hamm played five sports at Campolindo High in Moraga, but soccer emerged as her ticket. She went to Cal figuring she would play outside-back, a defensive position, but when one of Cal’s best players got hurt, Boyd moved Hamm to forward. She led the team with nine goals as a freshman and played up front again as a sophomore. Then she moved back to defense for her final two seasons and did just as well there. In her junior year, the Golden Bears set a school record by allowing just 0.475 goals per game.
“She’s not only fast, but she’s able to run for a long time,” Boyd said. “Not many players are able to do both. When she played outside-back, she’d be running up the flank all day long.”
Even while at Cal, Hamm had begun coaching at Heritage Soccer Club in Pleasant Hill. When she graduated with a degree in mass communications (Hamm earned All-Pac-10 academic honorable mention three times), she was hired as associate head coach at College Park High, also in Pleasant Hill, and then returned to the Golden Bears as an assistant coach.
Hamm had also been playing for a Sacramento-based soccer club, the California Storm — which occasionally brought her here to play the Sonoma County Sol. The Sol were then coached by Emiria Salzmann, who preceded Oberkirch at SRJC and now coaches women’s soccer at Sonoma State.
“When I’d come on one of my interviews (at the JC) and I was walking through the parking lot, I looked over and I was like, ‘I think I played soccer on that field before,’” Hamm recalled. “I asked one of the committee members, ‘Is that Santa Rosa High School?’ I had no idea that the junior college was right next door.”
In 2009, Hamm left Cal to join the Atlanta Beat of fledgling Women’s Professional Soccer. It was an exciting time, but the league proved unstable. After one season, two of eight teams folded. In her second season, another two closed shop. Hamm read the writing on the wall and decided it was time to get serious about coaching.
She enrolled in a master’s program at Boston University and received a degree in counseling, with a sport-psychology specialty, in May of 2011. It was an important component of her bid for the SRJC job, because the soccer coach holds a full-time faculty position in the kinesiology department.
Hamm has been teaching an advanced soccer class at the college over the summer. It’s open to anyone, but has allowed her to meet some of the returning Bear Cubs players. Meanwhile, Hamm is in the process of moving from Berkeley to Santa Rosa, and of getting psyched for her new opportunity.
She said she hadn’t initially considered coaching at a JC. But the more she talked to people, the more she realized how rewarding it could be to help young women through such a significant transition period, from high school to the broad spectrum of higher education, jobs and family. She also got a lot of positive feedback on SRJC and the community here.
“There are just so many positive things that I read about,” she said. “So I thought, ‘Why not? Let’s do it.’”
Training camp starts Aug. 3, and school starts Aug. 20. That’s when Hamm will begin to sort out her roster, and to prepare the Bear Cubs for their first title defense.
You can reach Staff Writer Phil Barber at 521-5263 or firstname.lastname@example.org.