Abby Wambach: Moving Forward
The star athlete’s memoir is more than a book, it’s a window into her soul.
Earlier this month, Abby Wambach, 36, released her 230-page memoir, Forward. Much to the surprise of her family, friends and fans, it’s a book that’s less about her soccer career and more about her personal struggles as a lesbian professional athlete who is battling addiction.
Wambach, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, FIFA Women's World Cup champion, and six-time winner of the U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year award, holds the world record for international goals for both female and male soccer players with 184 goals. She was also given the Icon Award earlier this year at the ESPYs.
But even icons are human. And that’s the message Wambach wanted, even desperately needed, to get across in her book.
Forward as a whole is structured primarily as a play on words, as the title reflects not only Wambach’s position on the soccer field but also her position in life. She wants to move forward with her life, her career and her ambitions. Each chapter is dedicated to a label that Wambach either gave herself or one that was bestowed upon her by others: Failure, Addict, Rebel, Tomboy, Champion, Lesbian, Human and more. Throughout the book, Wambach does something she has shied away from doing her entire career—she opens up and lets the world in to see the real her. It’s a raw, vulnerable and courageous account of her life, which is inextricably linked to her legendary soccer career.
While soccer is, in fact, discussed throughout the book, it often takes a back seat to other key elements and moments in Wambach’s life. She discusses her sexuality with such openness and candor, it makes one wonder if Wambach sat back and took a long, heavy sigh once the words were written down on paper. Forward is more than a book about Wambach; it’s a release, and most likely served as a much-needed therapy session for a woman who lived her life in the spotlight, constantly living up to other people's expectations.
I have always respected Wambach for her talent, leadership and showmanship, but mostly for what she’s done for women’s soccer on a global scale. Now, I respect her even more for her honesty and humanness. Rarely do professional athletes open that door all the way so the public can get a clear view of everything that lies inside of them—all of the good, the bad and the ugly. While some of Wambach’s fans might have expected a different kind of book, this is the one she needed to write. This is the one that she can look back on and know she wrote it the right way. This is the one that will move her forward.
Wambach appeared on Good Morning America in early September to discuss parts of her book with Robin Roberts. See the clip below.