Two-time Olympic gold medalist Abby Wambach says USWNT is 'allowed to have a bad day'
Abby Wambach hopes people understood her Dirty Dancing reference when tweeting about the USWNT's 3-0 loss to Sweden on Wednesday .
"Last thing I would want to be right now is the next opponent of this team," Wambach wrote. "Nobody puts baby in the corner."
The two-time Olympic gold-medalist forward is familiar with the heartbreak of losing. Back in 2011, the USWNT lost the World Cup final against Japan in penalty kicks. Wambach scored a late goal in that game to boost the Americans to the lead before Japan tied the game in extra time. In the end, though, the momentum from that loss carried the USWNT to something even greater: a gold medal at the 2012 London Olympics.
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“At the end of the day, the national team is allowed to have a bad day. They are. Now, if they have two bad days in a row in a world championship, that's going to affect their tournament," Wambach told USA TODAY Sports on Thursday.
Even after retiring from soccer in 2015, Wambach has stayed involved with women's soccer in the U.S. and women's sports as a whole. She and her wife, Glennon Doyle, are members of the Angel City FC ownership group started in 2020 by actress Natalie Portman and made up of primarily women. The team is set to begin play in the National Women's Soccer League in April 2022.
Wambach also serves on Gatorade's Women in Sports Advisory Board alongside other female athletes such as the WNBA's Elena Delle Donne and Olympian Sydney McLaughlin. The board met for the first time recently and helped prompt a new partnership for the company.
Gatorade is now the founding sponsor of Angel City FC, something Wambach, who's been a Gatorade athlete for 15 years, said is a "dream." ACFC's sponsorship model is set up so that 10% of each sponsorship goes toward community and social programs. The partnership with Gatorade will be focused, as many of Angel City's efforts are, on providing female role models and opportunities in sport to young girls in the Los Angeles area.
While 96% of women working in C-suite executive roles played sports at a young age, 50% of girls are dropping out of sport before 17, recent studies have found .
“In terms of combating kids dropping out of sport at a young age, we have to give more opportunity to women at older ages," Wambach said. "There is a big reason why boys stay in sports longer than than women, and it's not just because puberty. It's because there's more opportunity for men in sport.
"So when you are given a choice between more chances of thriving and less chances of thriving, of course the majority of people are going to choose the option that has more chances of doing well and more options. Of course girls are dropping out at higher rates, at younger ages because the risk and reward is just not the same as it is for the men or for the boys.”
Wambach's involvement in the soccer world goes back way before her NWSL playing days. Back when she was in eighth grade, a teenage Wambach dreamt of winning Olympic gold, long before soccer debuted at the Games in 1996.
Today, the Olympics are the biggest stage for women's soccer and women's sports in general. Storylines for Tokyo 2020 have largely centered around female athletes: gymnastics GOAT Simone Biles, the USWNT, swimming's Katie Ledecky. Wambach is welcoming the change after years of women having to look or act a certain way to receive attention for their athletic achievements.
“Somebody asked me the other day, 'This is the Olympics of the woman. You don't hear about many male stories.' And I said, 'You know what, it's high time that this is the case,'" Wambach said.
Women's sports still account for less than 6% of televised sports coverage between news and highlight coverage. Wambach said media coverage of sports needs to be better democratized between women, men and "everyone in between." While it's great to have events like the Olympics, World Cups or World Championships to bring light to women's soccer, they only happen so often.
“When I was a player, that was always the thing that we thought and focused on," Wambach said. "It was the two big tournaments that the light shined the most brightest. These were the things that were highlights and highlighted on our calendars for our careers.”
Finally being on the big stage is also why a loss like the USWNT's on Wednesday stings so bad. But while Wambach knows the pain her former teammates must be feeling from the loss, she also knows what a motivating factor it can be. She's already issued a warning for when the USWNT takes the field again on Saturday.
"My guess and my instinct, my gut tells me that it's going to be an interesting day for New Zealand.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Two-time Olympic gold medalist Abby Wambach says USWNT is 'allowed to have a bad day'