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US Women's soccer legends bring youth camp to Quad Cities

Former 1999 World Cup champs Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly and Tisha Venturini are hosting TeamFirst Soccer Academy in the Quad Cities this March.

DAVENPORT, Iowa — Young athletes in the Quad Cities will have an opportunity to learn from three of the most iconic figures in U.S. soccer history.

1999 World Cup champions Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly, and Tisha Venturini will lead TeamFirst Soccer Academy in a two-day instructional camp on Mar. 12 and Mar. 13 at the Saint Ambrose Dome in Davenport.

The academy is teaming up with QC Fit Fest to host youth sessions for athletes ages 6-13 and a high school clinic for teens ages 14 and older.

More information on ticket prices and a link to register can be found here.

The trio started the camp in 2010, and have traveled as far as Alaska and Iraq. They use many of their experiences to teach sessions with a focus on developing a mix of fundamental skills and intangibles.

News 8's Angie Sharp spoke with Lilly who explained how herself, along with former teammates, wanted to leave a positive impact on youth soccer players around the world.

"Since we've had so many different levels of kids in our camps, we cover the basic skills. We provide an environment that's competitive, that will help these kids build confidence in themselves," Lilly said. "Our goal is really is if these kids leave with one thing better, but also if they leave feeling better about themselves, that's something we're striving to do."

It's a first-class learning session from former players regarded as some of the best in the sport's history. They are all plenty familiar with what it takes to achieve the ultimate goal of winning world cups, gold medals, and other championships as a team.

Lilly spent 17 years on the U.S. National Team and says her experiences as a teammate, as well as Hamm's and Venturini's, are a big part of what gets taught at the camps.

"I think there is one common denominator that Mia, Tisha, and I would all say: hard work," Lilly said. "We all had different pasts that got us to the national team, but in the end, we worked really hard and we enjoyed ourselves and supported each other. All those elements really help you to be better."

Another focus on the camp is continuing to be role models for young female athletes, this time as coaches.

Lilly explained growing up, a lot of her coaches were predominately male, so this opportunity can serve as a way of connecting to girls who might see a bit of themselves in each instructor and vice versa.

"Looking back at our coaches there was a lot of males, which there's nothing wrong, but we didn't see us," Lilly said "When we look at these young kids, we're happy to be an example for them, and also to see the look in their eye, the glow in their excitement...that brings us back."

It's not every day an athlete with experience at the highest professional levels of competition come into town, let alone athletes who were part of a generational '99 U.S. Women's National Team.

That team sold out stadiums across the country all year before closing out a historic 5-4 penalty kick win over China in the 1999 World Cup final in front of 90,125 fans on July 10 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

A combination of a clutch save from U.S. goalkeeper Briana Scurry and the game-winning penalty kick from defender Brandi Chastain changed history forever.

The U.S. became the first nation to lift the Women's World Cup on home soil, but that team also established milestones off the field by creating the first professional women's soccer league and negotiating the first collective bargaining agreement.

There's still a ways to go when it comes to things like equal pay, especially in U.S. women's soccer, but the generation from the '99 World Cup team left an impact. Inspiring others to continue pursuing their dreams and pushing for what is right on and off the field.

Nearly 23 years later they've continued to do that in a bit of a new role, inspiring the next generation of athletes to carry on a legacy. 

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