“Coaching is rewarding because I have the opportunity to build a team that will compete and win games.”
Alumnus Dennis Hamlett, BS Public Administration ’92, has let his love for soccer lead the way for him professionally. In January 2008, Hamlett was named head coach of the Chicago Fire, a Major League Soccer (MLS) team he has been with since 1998.
Hamlett, a native of Costa Rica, can trace his passion for soccer back to his childhood. “Soccer is the sport there,” he says. “My parents took me to watch the game, and that’s how I fell in love with the sport.”
He came to the United States at the age of 10 and eventually came to Mason as a student–athlete, where he played soccer from 1989 to 1991, earning All South Atlantic Region and All Colonial Athletic Association honors and competing in the NCAA tournament in 1989 and 1990.
“There are a few things I learned in my days at Mason that I will always take with me: the love for the game, the passion, the commitment, and the need to work hard and enjoy the game of soccer everyday,” Hamlett says. “Our coach, Gordon Bradley, always made us feel special that we were able to play the game of soccer as a sport and not a job.” According to Hamlett, playing soccer at Mason and having Bradley as a coach pushed him to want to play and coach soccer at the highest level.
Hamlett started his professional soccer career in 1992, splitting his time between the indoor and outdoor seasons for two years for the Harrisburg Heat of the National Professional Soccer League and the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers of the American Professional Soccer League, now the United Soccer Leagues’ First Division. Hamlett was an all star for the Continental Indoor Soccer League’s Anaheim Splash during its 1994 and 1995 seasons. In 1996, he began his MLS career with the Colorado Rapids where he earned BIC Tough Defender of the Year Honors.
The United States Soccer Federation awarded him his coaching license in 1997. The following year, he became an assistant coach for the Chicago Fire, helping to lead the team to several championships, including the MLS Cup in 1998, four Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cups, and the 2003 MLS Supporters Shield.
“The satisfaction I get from coaching as opposed to playing on the field is different,” says Hamlett, who was inaugurated into Mason’s Men’s Soccer Team Hall of Fame in 2006. “I love both aspects of the game. For me, playing the game has always been more rewarding because I can make a difference during the run of play. Coaching is rewarding because I have the opportunity to build a team that will compete and win games. ”
As the MLS season begins, Hamlett is eager to guide the Chicago Fire into a winning season. “We added a number of talented players to the roster during the off season. With these players and our knowledgeable staff, I think we are in a good position to make a run at the 2008 MLS Cup,” he says. “The ultimate reward is seeing the team hoist a trophy. I work toward that goal every day.”