How Abby Wambach Taught Me To Look At Challenges Differently
I had the pleasure of interviewing Abby Wambach last night at the Gatorade Player of the Year awards in Los Angeles, California. If you’re a soccer fan, or a sports fan, you know the incredible amount of talent Wambach possess and has brought to the sport of soccer.
In December, at the age of 35, Wambach announced her retirement from the sport and dream she has given most of her life to. Her journey in soccer, has been riddled with challenges and triumphs. When asked what one of her greatest challenges, the two-time gold medalist discussed when she broke her leg in 2008, right before the Olympics. The soccer star discussed how she could have let that stop her, how that could have shaped her attitude to be negative, but she didn’t, she persevered, she continued to fight.
Wambach told IfYouCanDreamItDoIt, “I think with great challenges, they shape you, and they carve into you, and ultimately it creates more space, more space for joy.”
Justin Timberlake presented Wambach as well as Kobe Bryant and Peyton Manning with the Icon award at the ESPYS on Wednesday for their incredible careers. In the video montage leading up to the presentation, they showed Wambach getting her head physically stapled back together, and she headed back into the game. To say that she's tough would be an understatement.
When Wambach received the ICON award at the ESPYs, she told the crowd, "
For me it was never about trying to be the best player in the world. It was about working hard and embracing eery challenge.”
As Abby’s soccer retirement has begun, her life looks differently, and she admits she’s not sure how to categorize her time, after living such a disciplined, scheduled life with soccer at the forefront. Over eighteen years ago, Abby once was a high school athlete being honored by Gatorade for her character, athletic ability, and scholarship. As she sat across me in a room full of high schooler athletes who were just honored by Gatorade for the very same characteristics, I couldn’t help but wonder, what she would tell 18 year-old Abby, knowing all she has accomplished now. Wambach took a deep breath, recalling the time she was in those very same shoes as these high school athletes, saying she would tell herself to not drink as much soda, work out harder, and do more.
For so long soccer was her sole focus. The 36-year-old is now beginning an entirely new chapter, learning to start new hobbies, new dreams, and told me she really wants to "learn transcendental meditation" and "kitesurfing."
Next time you're stuck in a rut, remember that challenge is carving you, it's shaping you, and maybe not now, but eventually that space can be filled with joy. That's important on this journey we call life and this journey toward our dreams, joy.
Thanks to Abby for the reminder and perspective.