U.S. Soccer Star Abby Wambach Discusses Career, Social Equality
Former U.S. soccer superstar and leading international goal-scorer Abby Wambach took the stage in Eisenhower Auditorium last night courtesy of the Student Programming Association’s Distinguished Speaker Series. The futbol great discussed personal experiences throughout her professional career on the nation’s most decorated team as well as her passionate efforts advocating for LGBTQA rights and gender equality.
Before she began speaking, however, Wambach formally and willingly addressed the audience, in as much detail as she could, about the DUI she was charged with on Sunday.
“I’m upset and beside myself in a lot of ways, and I’m going to own this. I’m going to do what’s best and make this right,” she said. “Just know that this is something that I don’t take lightly. This is something I will do right by for not just my fans, but also for my friends and family whom I know that I’ve disappointed. I’m so proud to have fans that are sticking with me.”
Wambach also talked about what went into making the choice to stay on the road and not cancel her upcoming scheduled engagements.
“I think for me it’s best to be out and in front of the cameras so that people can understand everything in my eyes. This is a message that people can really learn from,” Wambach said. “And even though it may be humiliating, even though it may be unfair that my private business is out now and my skeletons, so to speak, are out of the closet, it’s part of the responsibility that I’m tackling what I want to put out there. I think it’s so important that I’m here, because it doesn’t change what I’m going after in terms of equality. And I’m sad that this is now part of the conversation.”
After Wambach addressed the giant elephant in the room, her speech moved in a more comical direction. Many of the stories started with her six older siblings, her parents, and her collegiate soccer career at Florida. Wambach also talked about the character struggles she faced throughout high school and college.
Once she finished discussing her National Championship run as a Gator, Wambach congratulated Erica Walsh and the rest of the Penn State women’s soccer team, sending Eisenhower into a roaring applause. As the clapping died down, Wambach dipped into what everyone in the audience was waiting for — her intimate experiences with the U.S. Women’s National Team.
“Even after all the national championships, gold medals, and world cups, the process was so much more important than the outcome,” she said. “I played for so many years representing this country, I was doing something so much bigger than me. I was investing my time and energy in something that was representing an entire country, and I took a lot of pride in that.”
An acute motivator, Wambach told the crowd how she would text three players a day — most notably the players that didn’t start or get a lot of playing time — one positive thing that they did in practice. She also talked about a moment during last year’s World Cup in Canada where she told former teammate and current defender Kelley O’Hara that she had a good feeling about her going into their next match and to take her chance during that semi-final. Wambach described how hard it was to take a backseat role during her final World Cup tournament and transform into a genuine leader, but that she was ultimately grateful for her new role by the end.
As her speech switched gears to her main topic, equality, Wambach automatically became more animated and vocal. She discussed how every human should receive the power of equality, no matter their race, religion, or orientation.
“Think about the world you want to live in. Real equality isn’t something that’s just given,” she said. “To be treated with kindness, love, respect, and compassion, to be treated like a human being, that should be an absolute right.”
Wambach painted a metaphor depicting a little girl in today’s world with attainable goals and aspirations and how those goals should have no boundaries. The soccer star said that if that little girl wants to be the Commander In Chief, she should have no worries or reservations about her path to achieving that title. Wambach said mentioned how that symbolism is amazing to her, but begged the audience to not stop working toward a world in which that girl can prosper.
“The thing that I can’t implore the most is that we can be the generation that we’re so proud of. No matter what happens, we can do it,” Wambach said. “And even if we falter, even if we slip up, we’ll dust ourselves off and put one foot in front of the other.”
A member of the audience asked Wambach what she thinks is the biggest change she’s seen in women’s sports since she first started competing at high levels.
“The biggest difference was that, in 2005, there were 500 people in the stands, and now the women’s team is selling out huge venues. Women’s sports have come so far, not just soccer, but our team is definitely a role model for the development and push for equality. That image is something I’ll never get out of my mind, and I’m very proud to have been a part of it.”
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What would you do if someone interrupted your class to make a panini?
“What’s truly important is, obviously, faith, family, and friends, and today we woke up with a great reminder [of that]. If you didn’t go home last night and hug your kids, you should’ve — that’s what I do. At any second, it could be gone.”
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