On Monday, Abby Wambach stopped by the CNY Family Sports Centre in Syracuse, NY to host a free youth soccer clinic. The clinic was sponsored by MVP Health Care, which has put on the series of Wambach clinics across the Northeast since 2004. Below, Wambach talks about the clinic and what she feels American youth soccer players – and youth in general – need to improve upon.
Toward the end, Wambach also touches on some things regarding the U.S. Women’s National Team and her club, magicJack’s Washington Freedom. Wambach revealed that she is still healing from Achilles tendinitis and she will only play limited, if any, minutes in the Algarve Cup that begins March 2. She also stood in support of the Freedom’s new owner, Dan Borislow, who she notes saved the team. In doing, so he also kept Women’s Professional Soccer alive. Here is Tuesday’s Syracuse Post-Standard article. Check out the full chat below:
Jeff Kassouf: What is the general purpose of today?
Abby Wambach: I’ve been a partner with MVP Health Care since 2004 and have grown the kind of relationship you would hope to with the company, having worked with thousands of kids trying to teach these kids about living a healthy lifestyle – nutrition, exercise and obviously trying to market and support women’s professional sports. There is a huge draw to soccer in this region and it’s been a really great partnership. It’s something that I’m really proud to be part of the MVP family.
JK: Most of the clinics are in Central New York?
AW: Yeah, in the Northeast. Basically wherever MVP covers people, that’s where I have gone. I’ve been in New Hampshire, I’ve been in Vermont and I’ve been all over the Northeast giving these clinics for kids and hopefully – I don’t know what the exact number is but I know it is in the tens of thousands of kids that I have been able to provide these clinics for with the help of obviously MVP.
JK: What do you take out of these clinics?
AW: Well it’s really cool now because I think they’ve put the numbers into a place where it’s easier to have a one-one-one relationship and a one-on-one connection with a kid. There have been clinics in the past where it has been six, seven or eight hundred kids and it is just tough to get my message across and to really get to a kid – to really get them to understand. You become more of a novelty rather than somebody who actually has something important to say. The clinic we did (Sunday) in Rochester was really a success because I was active with the kids, they were up, they were moving. There are segments of talking and there are segments of demonstrations of things that they can do when they leave the clinic. They can do them by themselves in the backyard or with their parents or teammates, so I feel like the evolution of these clinics has been really cool. It’s gone from a really big scale to, ‘you know what, we really want to get the kind of feedback; we really want to get the impression and we want these kids to really learn something.’
JK: So what is the ideal number for a clinic?
AW: It’s hard to say. I would say 200-300 rather than 600. It’s hard when you have to use a microphone because there is an echo and people can’t hear you. It’s better if you use a loud voice and that they can hear you. I think that is important because then they don’t think that you are somebody up on stage. They feel a little bit more connected to you, I think.
JK: What do you hope that kids take from these clinics?
AW: I think that I would love for them to take away, even if it is just one small tid-bit, it’s that they have a choice. And that is what I want these kids to feel. No matter how young, kids need to feel empowered by making the decisions for the rest of their lives. And the decisions they make now – and they are not all going to be good, we’re all going to make mistakes and there are going to be ups and downs – but for the most part we want kids to develop the habits early on that will benefit them in the long-term. Give them increased lifespan; give them the ability to make the choice that they want to go out in the backyard with their own kids and be able to play. Obesity is such an epidemic right now in our country that I believe the way MVP Health Care is fighting it with the combination of my skill set is kind of like going out to the front lines and getting these kids while they are young so that they feel like they have a choice throughout the rest of their lives.
JK: So it is kind of fusing soccer with something that is beyond soccer?
AW: Absolutely. And I think that it is a really great marketing strategy. It’s something that I believe in. I wouldn’t have the career that I have if I didn’t live a healthy lifestyle. I’ve done so many good things with my body and my mind that I have a really good chance of surviving a long, long time and doing it in a healthy way.
JK: Have you been to this facility in Syracuse before?
AW: Yes, I’ve been here one time before and to Syracuse a couple of times. It’s usually we either start out east on the East Coast and head back toward Rochester or we start in Rochester and trail that way.
JK: Syracuse is still pretty close to home. What’s it like having this tour in your old stomping grounds?
AW: It’s great. We had a lot of fun (Sunday). The kids I felt were really receptive and that is always a little strange coming back to Rochester, because I go from like a ‘F’ class celebrity to a ‘B’ class celebrity. The second I get off the plane people recognize me and that is a little odd, but it’s part of why I love having grown up in Rochester because people really do care about you and they think that I am doing really great things for the name of Rochester and keeping the memory of the people here alive. That’s a lot of fun.
JK: How was the reception to the clinic last time you were in Syracuse?
AW: It’s been awesome. All of these clinics, the reception I got, it’s so warming to know that I can go in and around Rochester and still feel like I am at home. Syracuse has made me feel very welcome. I know a lot of people all across the country. Whenever they are within 90 miles of Rochester we are hometown buddies. And I think that is just so common in this area, because if you are from Syracuse, people from Syracuse know the same trials and tribulations that people from Rochester do. It’s cold in the winter time, there is a ton of snow and a lot of people I can’t believe survive it.
JK: What can kids expect at the clinic as far as drills and other training?
AW: We are going to do some Coerver moves just to get them warmed up and then a new scientific approach to warming up where it is not just jog for a little bit and then you stretch while standing still. It’s called dynamic stretching. I’ll teach them a little bit about stretching their bodies and then go into a passing drill. It’s tougher for the younger kids but we are going to try to pair them within their own age group. And then after that I am going to do some demonstrations. I am going to show them how to properly strike a ball. I am going to show them how to head a ball properly. And then I will hopefully have enough time to get them to shoot on goal and do my little [speech] on exercise, health, education and the importance of all of that, question and answer and a little autograph session.
JK: What is one of the biggest problems you see with kids when they come in? Is it technical? Is it attitude?
AW: All things that kids need to work on is just the repetitiveness of doing things that they are uncomfortable with. Just (Sunday) it was a drill where I wanted them to take a touch and cross it across the goal with others making a run to finish. And it was the left side and I did it on purpose. I told them, this is the left side so we still have to use our left feet. We don’t want to get down to the end line and have to cut it back on our right feet. Consistently, kids were still cutting it back and I stopped the group and I said it is ok to feel insecure and uncomfortable about kicking the ball with your left foot. No problem. This is the environment that you want to mess up in. The more times you mess up, the better you will eventually get, in my opinion. So, the very next play the one girl that kept putting the ball on her right foot, took a touch and hit it across the face of the goal with her left so perfectly. I was just so pumped because she took a chance on herself and I think that is what these clinics are supposed to measure with these kids – to give them more confidence. It’s to give these kids that option to choose, the empowerment, the education to do all of it. So, it was cool.
JK: Does this give you any type of an urge to coach later on?
AW: Yeah, obviously I have a lot of experience at the game. I played it at the highest level for however many years and I would love to get involved in coaching but right now the coaching that I do is going to be strictly for these clinics. I have so much other stuff that I have to do with training and getting prepared for the World Cup. Another thing that I want to tell these kids about is the new Western New York Flash team, because I think that MVP is also going to sponsor the team in some way.
JK: So how is the foot?
AW: My heel is better. Not 100 percent better, but it’s better.
JK: What exactly happened?
AW: Achilles tendonitis and it is in an area that is just giving me the biggest trouble. It’s the hardest place to heal because it is right in the insertion, not in the belly of the Achilles so it sometimes takes 12 weeks to heal. So, I’ve been kind of up and down with it.
JK: So are you questionable with the Algarve Cup?
AW: I might get some time but obviously I am kind of in a rehab phase, just getting back to playing and the timing and the whole thing. You just have to work your way back into fitness.
JK: Are you hoping to promote WPS a little through these clinics?
AW: Yeah, I think that it is important for these kids to know, especially the little girls, where they could potentially end up if they go down this path. We need as much support as we can get.
JK: So magicJack’s Washington Freedom is going to have Shannon Boxx, Lindsay Tarpley and Hope Solo. That is a good start.
AW: Yeah I think we are going to have a really good team. Everybody is healthy and I am excited.
JK: Is that tough seeing the Freedom undergo so much change?
AW: It’s hard, but [Owner Dan Borislow] kind of saved the day. We were going to fold otherwise. Whatever he wants – he saved our team.
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