U.S. Soccer

IN HER FAMILY'S EYES

On the eve of her last game in a U.S. uniform, we asked those who know Abby best – her family – to give some insight not into the player, who has scored more goals than anyone in international soccer history, but into the person they know as a sister and a cousin. To no one’s surprise, their stories – told in their own words – reveal a theme to Abby’s personality traits: tremendous grit combined with tremendous empathy and caring for people.

LAURA WAMBACH – Sister

Abby Wambach: She’s fearless, competitive, fun, adventurous, giving, a stand-out and my sister! Growing up in the Wambach Flock toughened Abby up from an early age. She wasn’t afraid to compete with the big kids in any sport even with a ten-year age gap. Off the field, even at McDonald’s when we would all try and steal her French fries, she held her own by taking a bite out of each fry, knowing no one would want to eat a ½ eaten French fry.  It was survival of the fittest or perhaps survival of the youngest. 

Many people who just see Abby on the field don’t realize she is serious about her fun.  She majored in “Leisure Management” at University of Florida. Yes, it really is a major. She’s a big kid at heart and always generous. Abby always buys the “funnest” toys for everyone to enjoy: giant blow-up trampolines, fast jet skis, remote control cars and helicopters, wave-boards and airboards. Her adventurous spirit and “live life to the fullest” attitude are values I want to live by and values I want to pass on to my children. 

As proud as I am of all that Abby has accomplished in her career -- all of her success, all of her wins, gold Medals, World Cups -- it is how she has handled her losses that have made her a standout in my book. When she broke her leg five days before the team was to leave for the Olympics in 2008, she accepted the reality of her situation and took on the challenge to get back into the game like a true champion. After losing in penalty kicks to Japan in the 2011 World cup Final, she was one of the first to walk over to the Japanese to congratulate them on their win.

She is a role model because of her sportsmanship, leadership, and character, and there has never been a moment where I wasn’t proud to say: “That’s my sister!

By: Laura Wambach

PETER WAMBACH – Brother

One of the things we admire most about Abby is the fact that no matter how famous she became, she never lost sight of the thing that mattered most: family.

A few years ago we were at our cottage in the Thousand Islands and she went with all of our nieces and nephews to get some ice cream. When they returned, she had a smile on her face from ear to ear showing her latest purchase, a huge 15-foot water trampoline! What she didn’t consider is that our Island does not have electricity, so as you can expect, inflating the trampoline took some ingenuity, but of course, she got it done.

She always thinks of someone other than herself and she was always willing to do anything for our family. She would spend countless hours signing autographs for family, friends, and charities, which is probably the last thing she would want to do with the limited amount of time she had when she came home. But she would do it and never complain. She would also surprise my kids at lunch, and sit at the tiny table while other classmates would get paper towels from the dispenser and surround her for an autograph.

Abby has always made our entire family feel like we were celebrities, whether it is VIP access to an event, or having the 22 grandkids run around the field at the end of one of her games. She would always look out for each of us and has made an imprint in each of our lives that we will never forget.

Despite the fact she is retiring, it is nice to know that she can now have the time to be able to enjoy life. She has spent so much time traveling the world that she hasn’t had much time to herself. Everything won’t be so rushed, and she won’t have to miss important events, holidays and family functions. The days of coming home on Christmas eve, only to be followed the next day with her lost luggage in a black plastic garbage bag (minus a few watches), are over.

We are so proud of all your hard work and accomplishments. You will always be a true champion to all of us.

By: Peter Wambach Jr., Carolyn Wambach, Mitchell Wambach, Brady Wambach, Connor Wambach

TRACY GOSS – Cousin

When asked to share a story about Abby, I sat for a few days reflecting on some of the great times we've had together and the special moments we’ve shared. There have been many! There was lots of laughter, some tears, wild adventures and intriguing conversations, all of which were near and dear to my heart. How do I pick just one? One story that epitomizes what Abby represents. I can't.
"She was the girl who wouldn't stop until the whistle blew or until she became a world champion." 

I can tell you that she is so much more than an athlete.  She is... 
Authentic and genuine. She is who she is and she makes no excuses or apologies for it.
Adventurous
and dauntless. Like the time in Hawaii when we jumped off a 40-foot high cliff into the ocean. I probably never would have done that if Abby wasn't behind me screaming, “you got this Trace!” She was right behind me.
Humble
and Considerate. Always thinking of others before herself.
Giving
and Kind. A few years ago Abby was home for Christmas and shared with us how she and Sarah were carrying out random acts of kindness, paying it forward. They did some wonderful things, too many to list. The whole family was inspired by this that we all started doing random acts ourselves.

The world has had the opportunity to see Abby the athlete, the girl who scores with her head. They've even seen her take staples to the head and get right back in the game. 

I hope the world stays tuned to see what's next for Abby. I know the best is yet to come! Thanks Ab for all that you are!

By: Tracy Goss

BETH RITTER – Sister

Watching my sister stand on stage at my son’s middle school in front of 750 students and talk to them a couple of years ago was inspirational.
“Who do you want to be, and how do you want to get there?”
"With her message she encouraged Ben and the kids to go out and achieve more than she has."

This was Abby’s message. My son Ben heard those words, and his classmates heard them too. They really listened because it wasn’t just a message it’s how Abby lives her life. The kids knew her story. The broken leg on the eve of the Olympics and a devastating World Cup loss in a shootout made her road difficult at times. But who Abby wanted to be was the best athlete she could be while still being a good person. She never gave up and pushed herself and teammates to work harder. 

Thank you Abby!

By: Beth Ritter

BROOKE WHOWELL – Cousin

To say that Abby is a little competitive, is like saying the sun is a little warm.  We (her family) had the pleasure of witnessing Abby at her competitive best last summer while vacationing with her in the Thousand Islands after the World Cup. What started out as a friendly fishing competition between the nieces and nephews quickly spiraled out of control into a cut throat battle of attrition between our son Alex, and his cousin Conner.

But before I get into that, I will provide a little background of what a normal fishing competition traditionally looks like at the island. Five or six kids are supervised by a handful of adults who are enjoying an adult beverage or two.  Fish come from time-to-time, lines get tangled, and the word “Tuna!” gets shouted out with each taught line. There are three winners:  Smallest fish, biggest fish and most fish, with each winner receiving a dollar for their bounty.

But for Abby, a dollar just isn't quite enough incentive for a true competition, so she decided it would be fun to up the ante. Being her usual generous self, Abby was going to part with her brand new Bluetooth headphones and speaker. Value: $600! The rules were the same as they had been in the past, but this year would be nothing like anything we had ever experienced.

It started at 9 a.m. and by Noon it became clear, due to attrition of the other kids and excellent fishing skills and focus, that it would be Alex or Conner as the winner as both were hovering around 20 fish. Throughout the morning Abby stopped by to check on the boys’ progress and provide words of encouragement.

At around 3 p.m., Alex and Conner hit the “fishing wall” with both stuck at around 35 fish. The biting had stalled and cramping hands made it tough to reel. They asked Abby how much longer and she responded "It's over when I say it's over, now go back and keep fishing."

At around 4 p.m. the bigger kids tried to get back in the competition but they are so far behind that they quickly drop out. Inspired by Abby, Alex and Connor soldier on. Alex stares blankly into the water muttering to himself while Connor begins singing Norwegian fishing tunes to pass the time.

At 5 p.m. the boys decide that since they at both tied with 45 fish that they will just split the prize with Connor getting the headphones, and Alex taking the speaker.

At 5:05 p.m., the boys make worst mistake in their young lives and tell Abby they have tied and will split the loot. This is where it gets interesting. Abby, ever the competitor, delivers a 10-minute, let's just call it “motivational, speech,” sprinkled with words that might not normally be considered “kid friendly.” A PG-rated paraphrased excerpt:  "We don’t accept ties. There is only one champion!  Now get out there and determine a winner!” 

The boys head back to the dock. Failure is not an option as both know there is another Abby speech in the offing. Every 10 minutes or so, from somewhere out in the distance, you could hear Abby yell out, "I'm not hearing a whole lot of fish hit the dock! Remember there is only one champion!" At 7 p.m. the sun has set. Both boys are exhausted and covered with worm and fish guts. They are deadlocked at 50 fish each. I intervene and make Abby call it. 

Abby takes the boys aside and explains to them how proud she is of them for not giving up.  She explains that no one will ever give them anything in life and that everything needs to be earned. She apologizes for being so tough, but assured them they will look back some day and understand. She gives the boys their prizes and hugs and walks away. 

Thanks Aunt Abby.

By: Brooke Whowell  & David Whowell

ANDREW WAMBACH - Brother

Abby truly embodies the word inspire.

From being the only girl to play sports with the boys in elementary school all the way to being one of the world’s best soccer players, I have always been inspired by her. Of the seven Wambach kids, I’m the closest in age with Abby and have seen her grow in so many ways. She truly amazes me. The way she grew as a person and player after basically getting the reigns of the U.S. Women’s National Team from Mia Hamm, one of her absolute idols, and then achieving greatness, was amazing to behold.

Abby never gives up on anything or anyone and I believe growing up in a large family and in a team environment has played a major role in who she is today. Everything is not about her, but rather about the team and I love that about her. We all know sports are not all won individually and no one knows that more than her.  

My family and I have been on this journey that saw her lose in the high school sectional finals, all the way to winning the 2015 Women’s World Cup. It has truly has been a memorable ride and I can’t thank Abby enough for just being herself. It canʼt be easy for anyone live in the spotlight with such high expectations and do it with no hesitation or frustration. She just loves what she does.

Will retirement be difficult for her? No. She’s going to embrace new opportunities and find a new path. We spoke a few months ago and she asked me what she should do after she retired and I told her to go somewhere she’s never been. Even though she’s traveled the world, there had to be a place she never been to!

She has so many gifts and amazing qualities, I know that with her retirement from soccer will come a rejuvenation of who she is and I know she will find herself and her calling. We know that she has inspired several generations of fans, but no one has been more inspired than her family members. We love you Abby and wish you the best after you hang up those cleats. The boat is waiting!

By: Andrew Wambach

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