Mia Hamm & Dale Lari Recognized as Inaugural ECNL S’Hero Award Recipients

AYW WhiteRICHMOND, Va. (November 11, 2014) – The Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) today announced Mia Hamm and Dale Lari as the inaugural S’Hero of the Month award recipients for individual and community leadership.  The ECNL is sharing the stories of these S’Heroes in support of our nation’s youth female athletes who are balancing their drive to become elite athletes with the outside pressures of fitting in with their social peers.

S’Heroes is part of the the Amazing Young WomenTM campaign designed to showcase strong, successful women who embody the fact that drive on the soccer field translates into life lessons. The ECNL is calling on all who love sports to join them in supporting youth female athletes as they recognize their own potential, define their individual paths to success, and prepare to be our next generation of leaders by visiting www.AmazingYoungWomen.com and using the hashtag #BeautifulAmbition.

Studies have shown that driving factors behind girls dropping out of sports include limited exposure to the inspirational journeys trail blazed by positive role models, and social stigma; where player traits that are so valued by teams are often not promoted as “beautiful” traits for young girls.  By age 14, girls are dropping out of sports at two times the rate of boys1.  Amazing Young Women encourages young female athletes to embrace their ambitious, driven and competitive nature.  And those recognized as S’Heroes have taken a spirit of leadership and inspiration from the field, and have demonstrated that it’s not just about a phase of your life, but a way of life.

“When you’re an elite athlete you’re focused on how to be your best at that moment, at that game,” said Sarah Kate Noftsinger, ECNL Commissioner.  “At the ECNL our goal is to harness that motivation and develop these young women as the nation’s elite soccer players while continuing to champion new goals as they raise the bar throughout their lives.”

S’Hero – Mia Hamm
Hailed by ESPN as the greatest female athlete in the last 40 years and arguably the most important and recognizable female figures in the history of sport, Mia Hamm has inspired generations of young female athletes with a career of firsts that has helped to reshape the ideal of a female athlete:  She has two World Championships, competed in four FIFA Women’s World Cups with the US Women’s National Team, including being selected as the youngest player on the team to win the first FIFA Women’s World Cup title in 1991; she claimed the women’s FIFA World Player of the Year the first two times that award was given (in 2001 and 2002); she is a two time Olympic Gold Medalist; she was a founding player in the Women’s United Soccer Association, the first professional soccer league for women in the United States; she has her own foundation, the Mia Hamm Foundation; she is a mother of three children.

And now, she has joined the Board of Directors for Italian club AS Roma, and is part-owner of the newest Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise, Los Angeles Football Club (LAFC).  Together with a star-studded ownership group that includes her husband and baseball All-Star Nomar Garciaparra, former Lakers great Magic Johnson, the expansion team will join the league in 2017 and be based out of Southern California.

“What a cool thing to be honored as a S’Hero,” said Hamm.  “I am excited to join ECNL in helping recognize the best and brightest young soccer players for their achievements on and off the field.  It makes me proud to know there are so many Amazing Women playing soccer right now and the future of women’s soccer is in great hands.”

Community S’Hero – Dale Lari
Larissa Estrada was a passionate soccer player from Newton Grove, NC who tragically passed away on December 8, 2012.  Now, in honor of Larissa, her brother along with her Capital Area Soccer League (CASL) ECNL teammates founded Dale Lari. Dale Lari is a celebration of Larissa’s life and legacy. More importantly, this project is a reminder that if one gives, one will always have. Dale Lari displays the benefits of hard work, the reward of commitment, and the true sense of community experienced through being a part of a team.

Larissa was from a first generation Nicaraguan-American family that maintained close ties to their relatives from their mother country.  Larissa was driven to compete at the highest level and commuted the approximate 60 miles to Raleigh, rarely missing a tryout, practice or game with her CASL ECNL U14 team. After joining CASL, Larissa organized donations of clothes, cleats, equipment, and funds to be sent to support the Cachorros Futbol Club (CFC), a team the Estrada family founded in Nicaragua for underprivileged youth, giving them an opportunity to shine through the joy of the game.

After Larissa’s tragic death, Dale Lari was founded to take Larissa’s original mission to the next level.  Through donations and hard work, a signature Larissa-purple Dale Lari bus was purchased, and her campaign and spirit have been given new life.  Collections from CASL, the Next Level Academy, the Carolina Railhawks, teams, families and individuals, have filled the bus that is being driven to Miami where it will then be shipped to the Cachorros Futbol Club.

“The spirit of an individual can truly transform a team, club and community.  This is evident during major events like losing a teammate, and is also seen in those subtle actions like picking up your keeper after a goal.  We can learn from actions that ultimately build a community within a team,” said Damon Nahas, Larissa’s CASL ECNL U14 coach.  “For us, this was never truer than when the girls came together in support of Dale Lari.  Everyone was motivated by Larissa’s spirit and drive to continue her work, it has truly united our community.”


About Amazing Young WomenTM:  Launched by the ECNL, the Amazing Young Women campaign is a dynamic platform of online and local market activations that showcase and celebrate female role models offering an aspirational focus for all female athletes and teens as they prepare to be our next generation of leaders.  Throughout the 2014-2015 season, the ECNL will showcase what it means to have #BeautifulAmbition as exemplified by former and current ECNL players, and is calling on all of the nation’s women to join the movement to celebrate the endless potential of today’s girls.

Women of all ages can share their personal moments of #BeautifulAmbition through social media and at www.AmazingYoungWomen.com.  Every share and submission helps drive a movement that celebrates the power of what it is to be a girl today.  Each month Amazing Young Women of the ECNL will be chosen from online submissions and social engagement to be showcased at AmazingYoungWomen.com.  Through testimonials, tips and tools, the website is providing all girls to view, share, and celebrate what it is to be motivated, strong, and successful.

About Elite Clubs National League:  The Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) was founded in 2009 to enhance the developmental experience of female youth soccer players in the United States through: (i) Improving the competitive environment through creation of a true national competitive league; (ii) Improving the process for identifying elite female soccer players for the U.S. Soccer youth national teams through a systematic scouting and identification program based on national competitions; and (iii) improving the daily training environment at top female youth soccer clubs through developing best practices and training and organizational guidelines for its member clubs.  The ECNL is sanctioned by US Club Soccer and is sponsored by Nike Soccer.

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For media enquiries:
Jen Woodie
Email: info@eliteclubsnationalleague.com
Phone: (703)304-5723

  1. Girls drop-out at different rates depending on where they live. Sabo, D. and Veliz, P. (2008). Go Out and Play: Youth Sports in America. East Meadow, NY: Women’s Sports Foundation.