Abby Wambach won’t be with her team, the Washington Freedom, for their next game. She is serving a one-game suspension for a tackle she made on star opponent, Daniela, at the Freedom’s game Sunday night. As the result of Abby’s tackle, Daniela suffered knee ligament damage and a cracked tibia. Her season is probably finished.
Abby assures us that she did not intend to hurt Daniela with her tackle, a strategy sometimes referred to as “taking out” the other player. And, from what I know of Abby, I believe this is true. I had the opportunity to spend some time with her a few years ago when she was just coming onto the professional soccer scene. She was visiting a relative in our neighborhood and kindly took time for pictures and autographs with my soccer-playing kids. She told me “she had watched her brother be so disappointed when his sports hero wouldn’t take time to sign his autograph.” And she saw the looks on the faces of kids left behind when Mia Hamm tired of signing so many. Abby said she made up her mind then that “she wouldn’t ever turn down an autograph” and leave a fan disappointed.
Well Abby, this is disappointing. You’re a professional now. Add to this, you are just recovering from a serious injury and significant time lost to play. It’s been a long and probably frustrating road back for you. And we are glad to see you back. We know you play a physical game, and we love you for that. But please discipline your aggressive play with skill and within the laws and the spirit of the game. Your fans want to see good, strong aggressive play. And we’re cheering for your team (our team in the Washington area) to win. But mostly we want to see the game played as it was meant to be, with finesse and skill. That’s the way I want my kids to learn it.
Abby, I hope that international competition and pressures haven’t spoiled your resolve to be the best role model you can be. Women’s professional soccer is back on center stage. You’re sending a message, especially to our young female athletes, to play hard and play well. But teach them also the importance of disciplined play. It’s so much more fun when everybody can suit up for the rematch.