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Soccer star turned soccer mom Abby Wambach: Here’s what sports parents get wrong

Soccer star turned soccer mom Abby Wambach: Here’s what sports parents get wrong

Two-time Olympic gold medalist and Women’s World Cup Champion Abby Wambach famously scored 184 goals during her career, more than any other male or female player in the history of international competition. In 2012, she was named FIFA World Player of the Year, and in 2015, her retirement year, she landed on the Time 100 list of the world’s most influential people. Today, Wambach remains an ambassador for the sport, but she’s recently cultivated a new area of expertise: that of mom/soccer mom to her three stepchildren, after her marriage last year to author Glennon Doyle.

“I always wanted to be a mom,” Wambach told me in a recent phone interview. “I’m learning all these amazing things, all about the stress of shaping human beings and trying to raise responsible people.”

As a soccer mom myself, I wanted Wambach’s perspective on the role that sports should play in a healthy, happy childhood. What can parents do to ensure that their child’s athletic participation is a positive experience?

“Most parents have dreams of their kid being the next star,” Wambach said. “Percentages show most kids won’t go pro, but sports provide all kinds of opportunities to grow as a human being.” Despite her history as a relentless competitor, she believes that families should focus on the child’s effort and embrace the lessons in leadership, teamwork and grace that participation provides. “Parents go wrong by focusing too much on winning. The process is what will translate beyond soccer.”

The youngest of seven children, Wambach shined on the soccer field early, but in her memoir, “Forward,” published last year, she reveals that she pursued soccer success in a bid for parental attention and approval. Discovering that the superstar never felt pure love for the game, and nearly quit at age 14 to escape the pressure, makes for poignant reading. She talked about how playing sports, though, taught her resilience, and she’s grateful for that lesson.

“We think it’s our job to help our children avoid fires, but we need to walk them into the fires to show them they’re fireproof,” she said. “That to me is everything — teaching kids that they can handle anything life throws at them, the good and the bad. Kids need to learn that they are capable of handling life on life’s terms.”

(Read More: The Washington Post)