Every female athlete, no matter the sport, has two things in common: a love for their sport and familiarity with empty stands. Something else that most females, athlete or not, are familiar with are the preexisting rules that hold us back: stay on the path, be grateful, wait for permission, failure is final, play it safe, pass the ball and above all else, you are on your own. Wolfpack by Abby Wambach challenges these rules, among others, and makes new rules to help cultivate success.
Wambach is a two-time U.S. soccer gold medalist, former co-captain of the women’s world cup team and holder of the world record for international goals scored for both men and women. So, in other words, success is her middle name.
For our virtual lacrosse practices, my coaches tasked us to read this book. It is not a long book to begin with, but I finished it in one sitting. I could not believe that every insecurity I had as a female and as an athlete was mapped out in such an accessible format. I was skeptical about the book because I read stories and try to avoid “self help” type books. Regardless, I not only read the book, but also internalized every single word that Wambach wrote.
The book is formatted with each “chapter” used to burn an old rule and make another, while still retaining the charm and casual nature of a memoir. Wambach starts off the book with an experience she had where she was asked if the leadership talk she was supposed to give was applicable to men as well. In her cool, winner, Abby Wambach way, she responded by asking if all male presenters had been asked to make their speeches applicable to women. Wow, starting the book right with a punch to the patriarchy. While Wambach does acknowledge that the book’s content primarily focused on the struggles of women, she still thinks that all humans can relate to the struggle against pre-existing rules.
It is impossible for me to pick a single chapter that I felt resonated most with me, but the one I think is the most universal is chapter six: Demand the Ball. You deserve to be where you are today. You deserve the varsity position. You deserve the A. You deserve the extra playing time. So why on earth would you think or act differently? Wambach argues in this chapter that there is a time to be humble and there is a time to shine. So demand the ball, demand the job, demand the position and demand everything that you deserve.
Wolfpack really brought me back to why I started reading in the first place. Yes, now it is an escape for the stresses of the real world, but first and foremost I read to better myself. I want all the ambition of Jo March from Little Women. I want all of the compassion and strength of Patroclus from The Song of Achilles. I want all of the intelligence and humor of Mark Watney from The Martian. But Wolfpack is different from those books. It made me realize that I am already everything that my book heroes are, but I need to have the strength to see it in myself and break the rules that hold me back. Wambach thinks that staying on the path like Little Red Riding Hood is overrated, because you were never Little Red Riding Hood to begin with, you were always the wolf.
Reprinted with permission from the Wootton Common Sense