Marist Women’s Soccer Spends An Evening With USWNT Legend Abby Wambach

It has been over a year since the Marist women’s soccer team has played a match due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While waiting for their spring season to start, it has been an ongoing battle for the players while staying fit without any match time and getting used to having a new coach at the helm, Brittany Kolmel.

Coach Kolmel has quite the résumé under her belt. She was a First-Team All-American as a junior at the University of Connecticut and was selected as the Big East Defensive Player of the Year in 2007. Four years later, she would be called up to the Women’s National Team to the 2011 Women’s World Cup held in Germany. Her time with the national team gave her full-on experience of both playing and coaching at the highest level.

With limitations with the team practicing with COVID-19 restrictions, Kolmel decided to try different ways to bring the team’s chemistry together off the pitch. 

“It’s a family already,” said Kolmel “It’s been the hardest because we are trying to find new ways for our athletes to stay engaged and motivated and we were trying to find something to spark that little bit of fire to get us going.”

After the team joined a Zoom call where they thought it would just be another meeting to go over the team’s itinerary, they would get a big surprise in the middle of the call. None other than Abby Wambach, a former teammate of Kolmel’s on the National Team, joined the call to talk to the girls about advice on women’s soccer and life after college soccer. The initial reaction from the players was an obvious shock to all of them when Wambach came out of nowhere.

“They were all like, what the hell is happening right now?” Kolmel reminisced, “It was awesome to see all the facial expressions of all the players that made college students look like kids in a candy shop.”

Abby Wambach is second on the all-time list in goals in women’s international soccer history, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and a World Cup Champion. “She’s one of the greatest,” said Kolmel. “She’s fully rounded but even as a person she’s very candid, she’s open with others and Abby has a great personality.”

Since stepping away from women’s soccer in 2015, she thought to herself how she could replicate the success she had on the pitch. She has been traveling around the country giving talks and speeches, which all started from her commencement speech at Barnard College in 2016. She talked about how women are less the Little Red Riding Hood and more the Big Bad Wolf as that became the starting point of her second book, Wolfpack: How to Come Together, Unleash Our Power and Change the Game. Wambach’s novel discusses how she found her own voice during retirement, becoming one of the biggest activists in the United States.

One part of the Zoom call that both the players and staff that stuck out to them was the experience that Wambach had with failure. She told the athletes how she was able to take the positives from the mistakes that she has made in her personal life and how she has made that into the learning experience that she is still going through today. 

“She’s still the competitive athlete that I’ve known her for,” Kolmel said. “But to see her being able to do it in a new voice in a way can be inspiring and a great role model not only for young girls but adults as well.”

The biggest thing about the players meeting an icon in sports was how relatable she was. Wambach towards the tail end of her career had her role change where she was more of a leader than the star of the team during the 2015 Women’s World Cup and it got people on the team looking up to her. That would be the shift that would change her life. Had she not taken that approach willingly for the better of the team, we could have been seeing a whole different Abby Wambach today.

Just like what Wambach said, there is always a positive to take out of any situation. With the pandemic and the season being moved to the spring, it actually gives the freshmen more time to settle into a new college environment and to get to know their new teammates, upperclassmen, and coaches. It is a great way for the first year head coach to get sorted out in this family environment at Marist.

There was a quote that Wambach told the girls from her book: “There is a wolf inside of every woman. Her wolf is who she was made to be before the world told her who to be. Her wolf is her talent, her power, her dreams, her voice, her curiosity, her courage, her dignity, her choices—her truest identity.” Thismade the players’ eyes open up to the different possibilities that they have outside of soccer and put a fire in their stomach. It gave the ones that already had this mindset an even bigger confidence in themselves as players, and to be able to hear that from one of the greatest of all-time is something to never take for granted.

The one thing that the players took to heart was the advice that they got of what they are building currently with the team that will help them with what they are going to do with their life in the future, whether that’d be in soccer or not. Kolmel paraphrased, “Being an athlete, especially a soccer player, gives you so many life lessons that you could learn and you build so many unique relationships. And they sometimes don’t even have to do anything with soccer. It’s all of the little things along the journey and process that help you prepare for that next step in your life.”

Edited by Mackenzie Meaney & Dave Connelly

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