Soccer Star Abby Wambach Wants to Teach Kids to Be Leaders—Which She Says is More Important Than Ever

The two-time Olympic gold medalist, author, and "bonus mom" with wife Glennon Doyle is releasing the young readers adaptation of her book Wolfpack. Here, she shares why she believes it's more important than ever for young people to find their voice, unite their pack, and change the world.

Abby Wambach holding her book, Wolfpack
Photo: Courtesy of Abby Wambach

Like many Americans, Abby Wambach and her family—wife Glennon Doyle and their three kids, Chase, 17, Tish, 14, and Amma, 12—opted out of watching more than the first few minutes of last week's presidential debate. "When we watched the presidential debates, we all felt sick and gross and scared in some way," she shares. "After watching the first 20 minutes of that and turning it off, I just like, 'Wow, OK. How can I be a part of not that? How can I try to instill some of the things that I was taught, some of the lessons that I learned, my own personal experiences?'"

Those questions are the driving force behind Wambach recreating her #1 New York Times bestselling adult self-help book Wolfpack for young readers. "When I think about this book getting into the hands of our next generation now, it is more important than any other time in human history that our children learn leadership lessons that are based in honor," says Wambach. "They're not based in greed. They're not based in 'I want to go first.'"

Wambach recently chatted with about a few key lessons from the book and how they can relate for kids in this challenging time.

Claim Your Failures

Young adulthood is filled with opportunities to learn from mistakes, and that's exactly what Wambach, who is a "bonus mom" to three kids, is encouraging readers to do. In Wolfpack, she explains how failure can be met with blame, shame, and claim. You can either blame somebody else, you can either shame yourself—"take your ball and go home"—or do what the retired soccer player says she hopes all people do, which is claim it. "Say 'my bad' and then work really hard to make it right," she notes.

Champion One Another

Wambach also points out how crucial it is for young people to lift one another up. "This is one of the things that I learned from the very first practice I ever stepped foot into the women's national team environment," she notes. "We weren't afraid to cheer each other on, we weren't afraid to compete with each other."

She continues, "So often, our world forces us women to compete against each other, because it's the lie that they have been serving us from the beginning of time that there are only two seats at this table." But there are actually more like 10 seats, says Wambach.

Wambach shares an exercise she and her family do at the dinner table to embrace the idea of celebrating others. "My former captain of the women’s national team Julie Foudy told me about this," says Wambach. "The way it kind of goes is everybody gets to go around, talk about something that was great, or high, that day, talk about something that either scared them or was frustrating, their low that day, and then the third one is you call out or give a cheer to somebody you saw doing something cool that day that made you curious or happy."

Don't Apologize for Being Ambitious—But Embrace Gratitude

Wambach encourages young readers to not ask for permission to step up, be a leader, and succeed—all while remaining appreciative and gracious. "Gratitude is important to somehow bring some sense of balance to our world," says the author. "I don't want to just be ambitious. I love to bring gratitude into my life. I love to be appreciative. But I want to be successful. I want to be wealthy. I want to have things that, historically, women that have not been allowed to have. It's not a zero sum game, like you can have gratitude and be ambitious."

Lead From the Bench

Wolfpack aims to empower kids by urging them to speak up, especially when something doesn't feel right—like witnessing or experiencing bullying. "If you see somebody getting bullied, and you have that pit in your stomach, that might be evidence that you need to go into action to support and protect the bullied, right?" says Wambach. "Sometimes that pit in your stomach is because you are getting bullied and you have to go into action."

Wambach likens this to what Americans saw during the presidential debate. "When you see something like what we watched, you actually go into action to counteract the way that that is making you feel," she says. "Bullying isn’t ever acceptable—not just in our house, but in our world." That's why she urges kids to "lead from the bench."

"It doesn't matter where you are, you're on the field," says Wambach. "If you're on the bench, you still you still have a voice, and you still can make choices."

Harness the Power of Connection

While following safer at home orders, many Americans families have grappled with feelings of isolation, points out Wambach. In turn, this moment has shed light on the importance of community, friendships, and a wide variety of bonds. "Finding your people is essentially what Wolfpack is about," says the Olympic gold medalist. "The lessons in the chapters teach philosophy of leadership, but, in the end, none of that will matter if you don't have people around you that believe in you, that trust you, that will challenge you. We humans need social interaction."

And it's by finding and embracing your "wolfpack" that Wambach believes young people will be able to "go out and actually change the world."

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