Hamill first started skating in early 1965 at the age of 8, taking once-a-week group lessons. She became more serious about the sport the next season, taking regular private lessons and passing her preliminary and first figure test before the seasonal rink closed in March. She would wake early in the morning to go to the rink for practice at 4:30 am. Hamill was first coached by Otto Gold and Gustave Lussi. Ice time was limited in her area, so she eventually began training at Sky Rink in New York City, staying overnight in the city with friends when possible. In the summers, Hamill trained in Lake Placid, New York and later in Toronto with her coach at the time, Sonya Dunfield. During her career, her father would spend up to $20,000 a year on her skating expenses, including skating lessons, travel, living expenses, and costumes.