By Shaley Howard, PQ Monthly
U.S. Women’s National Team players Abby Wambach, Shannon Boxx and Becky Sauerbrunn came together Thursday at the Regence Boys and Girls Club in Portland to promote #SheBelieves—a campaign aimed at giving back to community and young fans with a message that they can achieve anything they dream. About 75 starry-eyed, energetic kids eagerly listened to the soccer stars’ message about believing in themselves, chanting “I believe!” as Wambach, Boxx and Sauerbrunn pumped them up with positive, encouraging messages.
“The #SheBelieves campaign is just a win-win,” Wambach said. “We want to instill in them the belief in themselves, whether they go on to play soccer or not—that they can do whatever they want to do in their life. That’s what’s important. We all had dreams when we were young, we believed in ourselves. Not only did it turn into a success for ourselves but now we’re going to be playing in a World Cup for our country. So the belief that you have in yourself is probably the most important quality a human being can have. We’re all going to make mistakes, we’re all going to fall down, we’re all going to fail—it’s how you deal with those failures. If you have that belief, it doesn’t matter what kind of obstacles you face, you’ll get through it.”
After speaking with the kids about the campaign message the players joined them, high-fiving each one as they moved through the crowd, joined them in creating #SheBelieves posters and even shot a little basketball outside.
“These are the kids that motivate me to want to be better. We want growth; we want to better the human race. The only way you can do that is to get out there, go to the grassroots stuff and do the best you can,” Wambach said, adding, “I live a great life, I’m a professional athlete, I get to play sports for a living but if I’m not being responsible to push that next generation to strive to be better and reach their dreams, then I’m not only doing myself a disservice but them. We also have to believe too—this campaign, this tagline of #SheBelieves. Of course we’re trying to inspire the next generations but what we hope to show the United States and the world is that every player that steps on the pitch this summer has that belief, not just in themselves but in each other. If we can do that, whether it’s on the soccer pitch or in the backyard or at school, we will be a better world.”
Wambach plans on retiring after the World Cup and 2016 Olympics. When asked about what it takes to win a World Cup and what legacy she’d like to leave behind, she replied,
“Being a World Cup champion, that would definitely cap off a fantastic career. As a player and person I know I’m a force through energy—I’m a force through emotion and mentality, and if my heart’s not in it, then it shows on the field. I think that that’s something I’ve always known about myself. I’ve known when I’ve needed a little bit of time off and when to lay off the throttle a little bit. Right now I’ve got the throttle all the way down. My focus is to win this World Cup and bring back the championship for our country. Portland is Soccer City U.S.A. so if [we] can bring back the championship, Portland is gonna go nuts.”
Many question the sustainability of the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) and what will happen when today’s major players such as Abby Wambach, Megan Rapinoe and Shannon Boxx retire. And in addition to the inevitable retirement of star players who carry the momentum of the NWSL, there is also the question of the livability given of average salary for league players and the key factor of maintaining and even increasing audience attendance.
Shannon Boxx shared her thoughts: “I think what you’re going to see is new stars coming forward, especially in this World Cup. Those guys are going to be the transition. That’s what we hope for at least. We certainly don’t want it to end with us—just like Julie Foudy, Brandi Chastain, Kristine Lilly—we didn’t want them to feel like it was going to die without them either. We were the young ones then coming in. So it’s almost the same question maybe they were asked—is it going to be able to sustain? But this league is very different than the other two leagues. Financially it’s very different. Right now it’s being backed by the U.S. Soccer League. That’s huge. They’re backing it by paying the national team players. That’s going to help these smaller companies that have picked these teams in order to help them keep going. It’s also going to be more sustainable this time around because they’re taking it a lot slower. They were paying huge salaries, in huge stadiums, in the past. Now they’ve figured it out. We’re playing in smaller stadiums that are more affordable. But the big thing we’re still missing is the crowd. Trying to be in cities (like Portland) that are big soccer supporters is our goal.”
Abby Wambach also weighed in on the NWSL’s sustainability:
For additional information about the #SheBelieves campaign and to watch a video message from the national team players, go to http://www.ussoccer.com/womens-national-team/2015-wwc-shebelieves. The Women’s World Cup begins June 6 with the U.S. having their first match Saturday, June 7. The final matches will be played in Vancouver, Canada July 5. For more information, go to http://www.fifa.com/womensworldcup/.