Soccer Champion Abby Wambach’s Virtual Visit Leaves Lasting Reminder

by, Alexa Schmidt, Arts & Entertainment Editor

On June 20, 2013, I attended a soccer match at the Red Bull Arena to watch the US Women’s team play South Korea in a friendly game. I had just turned 14 years old, and was bouncing out of my seat. I was so excited to watch professional women’s soccer in person, and at that point, I had already been playing the sport for about ten years. 

That night, Abby Wambach surpassed Mia Hamm’s previous record of 158 international goals, and became undoubtedly one of the best soccer players of all time. I left the arena that night having witnessed history. But more importantly, I left with Abby’s words in my head. After the game, she made a statement to thank her teammates and coaches because she could not have reached that milestone without them. From that night on, I followed the triumphs, the disappointments and the eventual rise of popularity for women’s soccer. 

To me and so many others, Abby Wambach is more than just an athlete. She is a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, a friend and a fierce advocate for women’s equality. She is someone who is passionate and is not afraid to point out the blatant disparities between men and women, not only on the field but in the workplace and all industries. 

Last Tuesday, September 8, I had the privilege and opportunity to moderate a conversation for the Student Engagement lecture series. Myself and two other students were able to ask Abby Wambach questions that were more than just surface-level material. Instead, we were able to get to the nitty-gritty aspects of her retirement, and got honest answers in return. 

I wanted to write this as an opinion-editorial, as opposed to a regular article that would have landed itself in the Arts & Entertainment section of the newspaper. You can look up any interview with Abby Wambach, where she goes into extensive detail and talks about her experiences. And I completely encourage you to watch the commencement address Abby delivered at Barnard College in 2018 that went viral, and became the basis of her New York Times bestselling book, “WOLFPACK: How to Come Together, Unleash Our Power, and Change the Game”. I encourage you to read “WOLFPACK,” and recommend it to friends and family. I encourage you to learn more about women’s sports, and learn about the adversities women must overcome. 

Alexa Schmidt and a friend at the USWNT soccer match at Red Bull Arena on June 20, 2013. ALEXA SCHMIDT / THE QUADRANGLE

But I wanted to press the importance of speaking up after attending an event like this, and bringing Abby’s words back to the community. Abby reflected on her career and wished she had made her voice heard sooner. But she didn’t for fear of getting paid even less than she already did, or receiving less playtime than she deserved. Upon further reflection, she said that she felt grateful, but wished she had demanded more. As women, we are taught to be thankful, to be so impressed with the fact that we were even offered an opportunity in the first place, that we accept the reality of not receiving equal pay. 

Now, more than ever, it is time to create a seat at the table for women. One where there is mutual respect, where our colleagues value our opinions and don’t try to immediately convince us we don’t know what we’re talking about, and one where we hold each other accountable. 

That starts right here at Manhattan College. Women writers, engineers, mathematicians, historians, artists, lawyers, philosophers should all have a place in our curriculum. We learn that history is built on a foundation of men, but we forget the women who laid the concrete before the bricks were added. I hope professors, not just in the School of Liberal Arts, but professors in all of the academic schools make room for women. Work them into the conversation, place emphasis on the context that surrounded their accomplishments and failures, and impress passion in students to learn more outside the classroom. 

Making a seat at the table also means attending women’s athletic games with the same amount of enthusiasm and numbers as the men’s games. It means addressing a misogynist comment, holding your friends to a certain standard and taking a look at your own long-held beliefs. It also means more than a post on social media, or an opinion-editorial in the newspaper. 

The conversation with Abby Wambach came at a perfect time in my life. Besides being over the moon that I got to interview a woman I’ve looked up to for a majority of my life (besides my mom), it also helped me to address some of my own challenges. Sometimes I feel disappointed in myself for allowing myself to get talked over, and for not calling something out that made me feel upset before the moment passed. Other times, I feel self-conscious that I am being too aggressive, too competitive, too bossy and too outspoken. Abby reminded me to find my truth, to own it and to empower others to find theirs. I hope you can do the same.