Soccer legend, activist, and Rochester native Abby Wambach joins Buffalo Bills owner and team president Kim Pegula and multimedia journalist Maddy Glab on the newest episode of "Bills Pod Squad," presented by New York Lottery.
Wambach, a native of Rochester, is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, a FIFA World Cup champion, and a member of the National Soccer Hall of Fame. She has authored two New York Times bestselling books and is co-founder of Wolfpack Endeavor, a leadership development program for women.
Here are three takeaways from her chat with Kim and Maddy.
1. A commencement speech paved the way for her post-soccer career
Wambach takes us inside her mindset after retiring from soccer, beginning with a realization that occurred onstage alongside Peyton Manning and Kobe Bryant as recipients of the ESPY Icon Award in 2016.
"I had this moment, this like 'aha' moment, that I was on stage feeling so honored and then the three of us turned to walk off stage and I realized, 'Wow, we three are walking into three very different retirements,'" she recalls.
The moment spurred Wambach to promise herself that she would make the road easier for future athletes. It took a few years of searching, but her next career took form following a commencement speech at Barnard College in New York City.
"Truly, that was a life changer," she said. "I didn't realize that that speech would go viral. That speech turns into the book 'Wolfpack,' which has completely changed my life because now I'm a professional speaker going around the world talking to corporations about the leadership philosophies that I wrote about."
2. She is part of an ownership group looking to revolutionize sports
Wambach tells the story of how actress Natalie Portman reached out to her about investing in Angel City FC, an organization coming to the National Women's Soccer League that seeks to reimagine sports ownership.
Portman learned about the pay inequities faced by women athletes from hearing Wambach speak at a "Time's Up" event, spurring the actress to try and think of a solution. Rather than attempt to break the glass ceiling, Portman and her fellow investors decided to build their own home.
"That's the kind of philosophy that Natalie embodied in terms of how she started the process of building what we now know as Angel FC," Wambach said. "Back then, it was just this idea, this need that she knew had to be filled.
"Us women on the national team were not getting paid as much as the men. We were, in fact, earning more sponsorship and revenue dollars for U.S. Soccer than our men's national team. … She found a woman named Kara Nortman, Julie Uhrman, Alexis Ohanian, and herself, and they got together and said, 'How can we reimagine and innovate what sports team ownership looks like?'"
Listen to the full episode for plenty more on Angel City FC and how it seeks to create change.
3. She recently released a young readers edition of "Wolfpack"
Wambach has adapted her New York Times bestselling book "Wolfpack" to inspire young readers.
"I think the world that we are currently witnessing – on media, on social media – I don't care where you fall on the political lines or where you fall on either side of the aisle. I do know that there might be no more important time than right now to be handing our children books that are based and forged on honor," she said.
"… This book, the reason I wrote it for these young kids, truly is because I think that kids are not given enough power and are not taught the most important things about life, how to be a leaders of their own life. Conversations about finances. … I think leadership and money are some of the most important things that a human being can actually learn, and if you teach them as young kids then it's going to be easier to get throughout the whole of their life."