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Abby Wambach Q&A: 2013 Winner of U.S. Soccer’s Female Athlete of the Year Award

After leading the U.S. WNT in goals yet again and an excellent club season during the inaugural year of the NWSL, Abby Wambach was voted the 2013 U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year. It was her unprecedented sixth time being so honored. Wambach spoke with keeping the consistency in performance from year-to-year, breaking the world goal scoring record and how she and her teammates are focused more on team goals looking ahead. What was your overall assessment of the WNT in 2013?
Abby Wambach:
“This year featured a lot of new players and new faces coming in and not only training, but making an impact. The younger players in the past few years have really stepped up, in particular Sydney Leroux, Lauren Holiday and of course Alex Morgan. In addition, our back line changed almost every single game and they still made sure we didn’t lose any games throughout the year. That’s a testament to our defenders and our goalkeepers also made a huge difference this year. Hope had her best game at the end of the year and that gives me a really good feeling going forward. Tom has clearly had a plan all year, and it’s worked to get some of the younger players experience as well as getting him more knowledge for player assessment. I think the future is bright, but you never want to rest on your laurels. Even though we were undefeated this year, it’s not time to relax. In fact, it’s time to put our foot on the gas pedal.” Winning the award for the sixth time puts you past Mia. It must be a huge honor to pass Mia for yet another record?
“Of course I’ve never really been competing against Mia. The kind of legacy she left behind is one that makes the people who came after want to strive to better the team and the program; those are the kind of values she wanted to teach. Hopefully, I can pass that on to the others who come behind me as well. The records and such aren’t the most important to me. Championships and winning games are the most important and if you put that as a priority, good things will inevitably happen for both the team and individuals.” Consistency is one of the most important characteristics of an elite athlete. Winning the award six times certainly shows that. What are the keys to maintaining that consistency over so many years?
“The skill set that I have is perhaps very different from that of a traditional forward. I score goals and that’s kind of what I do, but I’m a big, strong target forward. I think the consistency comes in the belief in myself that no matter if I have a bad week of training or a bad practice before the game, I always want to step on the field and be as comfortable and as confident as possible. That’s how I approach all the games and that mentality only comes with time and experience. I have to say this is was probably one of the tightest athlete of the year races we’ve ever had in terms of the options people had to choose from. That said, the better my teammates are, the better I can be. Any award I win is a reflection on my teammate. They put me in positions to make game-changing plays, but it’s crucial at the elite levels that you get into a rhythm when it comes to playing games and scoring goals. Even our fitness coach Dawn Scott would tell you that it’s a bit of an anomaly that I can score goals even if I’m not as fit or carrying a little injury. It’s just comfortable thing for me to be in the penalty area and head balls into the net.” Five months removed from breaking Mia’s record, what are your most vivid memories of that night?
“The night itself feels like a bit like a blur, but I think what was best about that night was how much my teammates wanted me to score goals. It’s not often you can you feel the actual heartbeat of the entire team wanting something to happen so badly. Maybe it’s because they wanted to stop talking about the record, but I’m so proud and it feels so good to know that my teammates wanted that to happen that night and the truth is that I would do anything for the players on the team. It’s an honor and amazing feat to own a world record, but I think about all the times my teammates put in me in those positions. I’ve had some of the best players to ever to play the game send balls into the box and with some luck and a little skill I’ve been able to get on the end of them. It was an amazing night and something I’ll never forget, but there are bigger and better things to come and we want to play our best soccer moving forward so we can bring home the next World Cup.” What are your impressions so far of 2013 U.S. Soccer Young Female Athlete of the Year Lindsay Horan?
“The kind of progression I’ve seen her have over the past three years from the U-20s until now is of a player who, much like myself, is a bigger, stronger forward with a knack for scoring goals. Now that she’s gone over to France and made a difference for her club team and stepped into the national team and got some minutes, it shows me a player who knows where she wants to go with her career. The sky is the limit for her and it will be exciting for me to see a player that may evolve into a similar kind of player that I am. I will say this however, she’s more skillful than I am and if I could go back into time, I’d want to have her kind of technique. She’s got an uphill battle to get playing time on the national team with four of the best forwards in the world, but she’s going after it and that shows me she has the confidence you need to make it at the highest levels. She has the skill and the talent and if it comes together in the future, it could be a perfect storm, so I’ll be excited to see what happens.”