‘My Story Is My Story But It’s Also Every Woman’s Story’: Abby Wambach On ‘Wolfpack’, Her Book Inspired By That Graduation Speech

By Heidi Stevens
Chicago Tribune

Abby Wambach, one of the greatest soccer players of all time, author and deliverer of one of the greatest graduation speeches of all time, was on a call with an executive whose company hired her to teach a leadership workshop.

“Excuse me, Abby,” he said. “I just need to ensure that what you present is applicable to men, too.”

“Good question,” Wambach replied. “But only if you’ve asked every male speaker you’ve hired if his message is applicable to women, too.”

This anecdote opens Wambach’s new book, “Wolfpack: How to Come Together, Unleash Our Power, and Change the Game” (Celadon). It’s inspired by the aforementioned graduation speech, the one she delivered to Barnard College grads in 2018 that quickly and understandably went viral.

“Women have had to find themselves within content presented from the male perspective forever,” she writes. “It’s essential to flip this and allow men the opportunity to find themselves within content presented from a woman’s perspective.”

In the book, Wambach tells the origin story of her graduation speech, which was inspired by a TED Talk about wolves in Yellowstone National Park. Naturalists reintroduced wolves to the park after a 70-year absence and found that the predators helped regenerate the park’s plant and animal ecosystems.

“The wolves, who were feared by many to be a threat to the system, became the system’s salvation,” she writes.

“Women, who are feared by many to be a threat to our system, will become our society’s salvation. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We. Are. The. Wolves.”

“The truth is this book is for anyone who has felt, inside of them, there could be a different way,” she told me.

“It’s told through my own experience, but hopefully anyone who reads this book can find themselves in the book in some way, shape or form.”

She urges readers to dispense with the old rules. She offers eight new ones.

Old rule: Stay on the path. New rule: Create your own path.

Old rule: Be grateful for what you have. New rule: Be grateful for what you have and demand what you deserve.

Old rule: Lead with dominance. Create followers. New rule: Lead with humanity. Cultivate leaders.

Each rule introduces a chapter that expands and explains how those old and new rules have looked in Wambach’s life.

Each chapter includes a “call to the wolfpack.”

“Claim your power, and bring along your full humanity. Clear the way for others to do the same. Because what our families, our companies and the world needs is nothing more, and nothing less, than exactly who we are.”

That’s one of my favorites.

“Having lived the life that I’ve lived, and I’ve been in a privileged position, no doubt; I got to play on our women’s national team, I lived in this bubble of bad-assery,” Wambach, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, Women’s World Cup champion and six-time winner of the U.S. Soccer Athlete of the Year award, told me. “Not until I left soccer, not until I retired, did I realize how important it was to have all around you these other bad-ass women who don’t always live by the rules of world.”

Her book, she said, is a calling to go find or create your own wolfpack.

“Everybody needs to feel like they belong to something,” she said. “I’m strongest when I’m around my teammates, when I’m around my wolfpack. So will the rest of the world be. We just have to create it. We have to create something stronger and catch each other when we fall and push each other to higher heights.”

Soccer gave Wambach an outlet to push herself, to test and grow her breaking point, to lift up women around her, to excel at and be celebrated for physicality.

“I was able to kind of break away from the societal norm of what it means to be a woman,” she said.

She hopes her book inspires other women to question the expectations they’ve accepted as norms and decide whether they want to adopt or reject them.

Maybe you don’t want to have children, even though your family expects you to. Maybe you don’t want to marry. Maybe you want to pursue a career in a male-dominated field. Maybe you don’t want to look the way the beauty industrial complex tells you to.

“My story is my story, but it’s also every woman’s story,” Wambach said. “That’s what that speech was, that’s what this book is. It’s a breaking away from what other people might expect for you and following your own dreams and your own desires.”

In the book, Wambach shares some of the feedback she received after her speech went viral.

“Your speech is our new bedtime story,” one mom wrote to her. “My hope is that yours is the new message my girls believe about who they are and who they can be. I want them to believe they are the Wolves: and that they can create their own Pack.”

Leave a comment