ABBY WAMBACH, Age 9
Abby Wambach, 33, became the all-time leading scorer in women’s soccer history when she broke Mia Hamm’s record for international career goals on June 20. But she hasn’t forgotten how her first teammates — her half-dozen older siblings — helped shape her and helped keep Wambach’s her early success from going to her head. Wambach’s handwritten Letter.
It’s tough being the youngest of seven kids. You feel like the family’s tackling dummy. Your four brothers force you to play goalie and then fire slap shots at you. They hang you from doorknobs by your underwear. You even have to play defense at dinner: biting French fries in half so that your siblings won’t steal them off your plate.
But your family will completely shape you, not only in terms of your physicality and talent on the soccer field but also the way you approach life off the field. You will learn from your brothers’ and sisters’ successes — and their mistakes. They will teach you how to stand up for yourself, and how to be a part of a team.
After you score 27 goals in your first three rec-league games, mom and dad will move you to a boys team. Thanks to your siblings, you’ll already know how to deal with not being the fastest or best player on the field. You will strive the rest of your life to skirt that feeling. You’ll learn how to tackle, how to protect and use your body — and head — to your advantage.
You’ll want to fight fame when it’s first thrown at you, but the sooner you embrace it, and commit to the game and your future, the more successful you’ll be. If you want to be the best, you’re going to have to train harder, eat better and focus on fitness — even though it’s your least favorite part of the game. Don’t be afraid to fail. Stop making excuses. Leave nothing in the tank and all that effort will pay off in the end. You’ll score a lot more goals in your career, but not one of them will happen without the help of a teammate. — ABBY