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TMS Talks to Women’s Soccer Phenomenon Abby Wambach at The 2016 MAKERS Conference

Abby Wambach MAKERS

The MAKERS Conference is an amazing event hosted by MAKERS, an organization devoted to collecting the stories of heroic, successful, inspirational, and exceptional women from all walks of life on video. Now in its third year, the conference is designed to “bring MAKERS to life, gathering the world’s most impactful leaders and innovators for a 36-hour action plan.” Through presentations by and Q&As with prominent, successful women in various fields, as well as workshops, master classes, and networking opportunities, The MAKERS Conference is working to “create an audience of global leaders at the conference.”

The amazing Abby Wambach, former team captain for the US Women’s Soccer Team, and one of the best soccer players – male or female – in the world, was one of the dynamos who took to the stage. In her insightful and inspiring Q&A with AOL Inc. CEO Tim Armstrong (which you can watch in full HERE), she discussed her strengths, her weaknesses, what she thinks it takes for women to get ahead in their chosen fields.

But more importantly than that, Wambach talked enthusiastically about this next phase in her life after retiring from soccer. Her driven, champion’s attitude won’t be going to waste, but the focus will shift. She’s now interested in devoting her energy and platform to working toward equality. Not just for women, or for the LGBTQ+ community, but for all marginalized communities who deserve greater participation in our country and our world. She’s a huge supporter of Hillary Clinton, she was proud to present the Arthur Ashe Courage Award to fellow former athlete Caitlyn Jenner at the ESPY Awards, and she is currently weighing all her options and figuring out the best way in which she can contribute her time, energy, and other resources to fight for a more equitable world. And she’s taking her time to think about it, because she is not the kind of person to do anything half-assed.

I had the chance to speak with Wambach after her presentation, and I asked her about the state of women’s sports. Because while, yes, Women’s Soccer is more popular in this country than Men’s Soccer, women’s sports in general seem to be perceived as lower-quality, whereas men’s sports are considered “Real” Sports. Here’s what she had to say:

I think that what we did last summer [winning the FIFA Women’s World Cup] made that reality less likely moving forward. Because Americans want to follow winners, and we win. And so I think that our team has a special quality to it that not many men can even understand – not many men’s leagues can understand. It was the most-watched soccer game in the history of soccer. Ever. And there’s something to be said about that.

As it pertains to what do I think can fix that problem [of perception]? I think you gotta start from the grassroots – bottom up – and you gotta also go from the top down. You need to figure out how to get more women in positions of power, positions of decision-making, to see where funds and monies get allocated. Because we’re proof that it’s possible. That promoting and investing in women’s sports isn’t just a feel-good thing to do. It’s one of the smart things to do financially.

And I think that generationally, you don’t want to get caught up in We [women] didn’t have enough time. We wanna be proactive about ensuring the rights of that next generation. I don’t wanna be the younger stepsister here, but it might take more time, and more urging, and – to be quite honest – some policy change from the government. I’m a positive byproduct of Title Nine, so like we were talking about today, maybe creating something that adds on to Title Nine. Title Ten, maybe.

She spent much of her time in her Q&A speaking positively about millennials and “the next generation,” and so I asked her, since we generally think of mentors and role models as those who came before us, if there were any younger women – either in her field, or elsewhere – who inspired her and served as a role model. She nodded enthusiastically, saying:

Hell yeah. Hell yeah. I look up to Alex Morgan. I look up to some of these women who some of the older generation might think This girl has too much confidence. She’s too full of herself. And I’m like No! She’s confident. And you want her to be confident. And you want to build on her confidence. Because the reality is, when you’re overly confident…that’s probably a little bit of insecurity shining through. So, you’ve gotta peer into that, you’ve gotta know that. You’ve gotta know people, and know how to motivate individuals how to be better, how to be stronger, how to be faster. And sometimes, you also have to find the insecure parts and the insecure moments, and we all have them. We’re all fallible. We’re all human. We’re not superheroes, we’re human.

So, yeah, I look up to a lot of younger women. Especially in Hollywood. Jennifer Lawrence who’s fighting big battles there in terms of the gender gap in pay. And for me, it’s crazy. Because they legitimately – like, I can understand on some level with women in sport that we’re not drawing in as much sponsorship money as the men’s teams or men’s programs, or men’s leagues do – but she’s drawing as many people going to the box office as a Bradley Cooper. And so, I think that her fighting that battle…

…I wanna be friends with her, so you can put that out there. Give me a call! Give me a call, JLaw.

You heard it here first, Ms. Lawrence. Abby Wambach wants to be your new bestie, and together you can fight the world’s ills.

(image via The MAKERS Conference)

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Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former Mary Sue assistant editor from 2015-18. Teresa's returned to play in the TMS sandbox as a freelancer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.