Soccer Star Abby Wambach Recommends Books On Sports And Leadership Wambach retired from soccer in 2015, and now, as a professional speaker, she shares three books that helped her learn to be a leader — both on the field and off.

Soccer Star Abby Wambach Recommends 3 Reads On Sports And Leadership

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A MARTINEZ, HOST:

Soccer star Abby Wambach retired from professional play in 2015. She's a two-time Olympic gold medalist. And she's a vocal activist on behalf of women in sports. Now she's the host of "Abby's Places," a new ESPN+ series about the global appeal of soccer. She's also a bestselling author. So we decided to ask her what books she's drawn from when it comes to leadership in sports.

Abby, welcome.

ABBY WAMBACH: Thank you so much for having me.

MARTINEZ: Sure. Sure. Now, let me ask you this. So the first book on your list is a memoir that's actually not sports-related at all - "Somebody's Daughter" by Ashley Ford. So what makes that particular book compelling for you?

WAMBACH: Well, I think that we have to figure out really, what is leadership? And I chose people who are inspiring to me on and off the field. So in terms of Ashley Ford's book, "Somebody's Daughter" is just such a moving story. And I can promise you one thing about every single team that I've been on, is that every single person is dealing with family stuff. And this book is a master class on how to love your family and still live with individuality and freedom.

Her story is particular to her. But it's also about every single one of us. I mean, it helped me to lead myself toward breaking old familial patterns and creating new ones truly, because the way she talks about her family and the way that she talks about the boundaries she creates is just stunning. And I - you know, Ashley Ford is one of my favorite writers.

MARTINEZ: You also have another memoir on your list, "Save Yourself" by Cameron Esposito. Why'd you pick that one?

WAMBACH: Oh, my gosh. Well, first of all, Cameron Esposito is one of my favorite comedians in the world. But for me, I think that leadership, especially in this world of trying to be inclusive - I think that leaders today need to understand the queer experience in America. I saw so much of her story - so much of myself in her story through this book. She's fighting institutional stuff with God.

And Cameron's story, it gave me a better understanding of why I felt some of the ways that I felt. It was to get a better understanding of some of the childhood traumas that I went through because that really is what leadership is about, is to know yourself and to know the people around you, right? And she's just such a good storyteller and so funny, you know? And she wanted to be a priest and then ended up a stand-up comic. And so for me, I guess that in and of itself is just so very funny and healing. (Laughter).

MARTINEZ: Yeah. And when you think about it, too, being a leader, or a good leader, it's someone that can just bring everyone in under the tent - right? - be inclusive. And you think about the Olympics going on right now, Abby. I mean, we've got transgender athletes in the Olympics. There could be a situation where they're not made part of things. And that's where leadership fails, right? And this is where that comes in.

WAMBACH: Yeah. And look, I do a lot of work in the corporate space now, in my retirement. I'm actually a professional speaker. And one of the things - one of the questions I'm asked the most is, how do we understand the queer experience? How do we create more safe environments for every person who works here? And in order to create the safe experience and environment, you have to know who you're trying to create these environments for. Cameron's story is unique and funny.

But I can't drive home more and I can't emphasize enough how important it is to me as leader - I had - I'm an extrovert. So I love to talk. And during my time as an athlete, I had to read a lot about introversion and folks who might not necessarily get the same or want the same kind of talk time. And so I read the book "Quiet" to help me understand some of my teammates. And that is really what leadership is about. If you want to - if you really want to be a great leader, you have to know the people you're trying to lead.

MARTINEZ: And finally, you have a book that offers advice for kids in sports, "Be All In" by Christie Pearce Rampone and Dr. Kristine Keane. What lessons does this book offer?

WAMBACH: Well, Christie Pearce Rampone is a former teammate of mine. We played together for almost 15 years. And Dr. Kristine Keane is a sports neuropsychologist. So for me now being a parent and having my kids go through the youth sports system, I see so many problems (laughter). There is a real disconnect from the parents who are watching their kids to really what sports can offer their children.

Parents are, in fact, inhibiting them from becoming the people or socialized in the ways that they want sports to do for their kids. They're actually turning their kids into jerks because there they are complaining at the referee for a bad call. What are we modeling? What are we teaching our kids? Being a parent, knowing what the problems are on the sidelines of these youth sporting events - a lot needs to change.

And sports offers, like, a vital path for children to get healthy, self-confidence and then, of course, being socialized. But I feel like youth sports is a little daunting and a little scary at times. And this book really will break it down and help you raise the kind of kid that you one day want them to be.

MARTINEZ: Abby, while I got you here - U.S. women's soccer team at the Olympics, they're going to play for the bronze medal versus Australia after losing to Canada in the semis. Megan Rapinoe after that game said, (reading) it just hasn't flowed for us. It hasn't been easy - can't put my finger on it. We just didn't have that juice that we normally do.

Abby, why did it seem like the U.S. women's team just wasn't themselves in Japan this time around?

WAMBACH: Well, I think a lot of factors go into that. I'm not in their inner circle right now. But I do know that our women's national team, we're very used to playing in front of a lot of people (laughter). And so when you go from that to having literally no fans in the stands, that just changes the dynamic. That changes the experience.

And sometimes - and this is the truth - sometimes you have the game plan, but then the execution just is lacking. This isn't about Megan Rapinoe or Carli Lloyd not wanting it enough. They wanted this championship. And they had every opportunity, I think, to win. It just didn't happen.

I'm proud, of course, as an alumni from that team. I'm always going to fight and cheer them on. But I do know that this hurts. I do know that they will hopefully use this as some sort of fuel to their future.

MARTINEZ: That's soccer star Abby Wambach. Her book is called "WOLFPACK: How To Come Together, Unleash Our Power, And Change The Game."

Abby, thanks a lot.

WAMBACH: Thanks, y'all.

(SOUNDBITE OF OVERGROWN SONG, "OH WONDER")

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