January 16, 2013
Simmons College was buzzing with energy Saturday, Jan. 12 as more than 100 girls, ages 9-12, got a chance to meet members of the Women’s National Soccer Team, gold medal winners in the 2012 London Olympics.
The all-day event, which also included interactive workshops on sports nutrition, leadership, goal setting, and Title IX, was the first in the Empowerment Through Sport Leadership Series, a concept developed by Olympian Angela Hucles to inspire young girls on and off the field.
“Hopefully the biggest takeaway for the girls was that it's important to work hard to achieve your dreams, knowing that anything is possible; and also that being active and playing sports provide an environment that encourages all of the positive elements that support achieving your goals in life as well for a healthy mind and body,” Hucles said.
Attendees were given a chance to meet the soccer stars and hold their gold medals. They also heard from 2012 FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year Abby Wambach, who used Skype to connect with the audience and offer words of advice for young girls involved in sports.
“My experiences playing sports gave me confidence in so many areas of my life,” Wambach said following the event. “On the field, you are expected to compete, lead, and be a part of a team. Those qualities are developed through sports and are not necessarily qualities that girls learn naturally.”
Wambach’s teammate Heather Mitts delivered the keynote address and Simmons Professor Leanne Doherty shared a personal story about life as a young athlete before and after Title IX legislation.
Below, Abby and Angela share a few thoughts on being professional athletes, and the importance of fitness and nutrition.
Simmons: Congratulations, Abby, on being named the FIFA World Player of the Year! How does it feel to be the second American to receive this honor?
Abby: It is such an honor to follow in Mia’s (Hamm) footsteps, and I am so appreciative. It is clearly a result of our team’s success this year, and we hope to build on it in 2013 and beyond.
Simmons: As a professional athlete, what have you learned about fitness and nutrition that could be useful to girls in youth sports?
Abby: The importance of good fitness and nutrition is clear for everyone but the commitment and discipline to it on a regular basis is something that is critical for a professional athlete. It would be great if young girls can instill these habits at a young age and make it part of their daily routine.
Angela: I think it's important when talking about nutrition and health to keep in mind that it should be a daily practice. If you are mindful about what you put into your body and practice good habits, it is much easier to sustain a lifetime of health. And that health is connected not only to you physically, but mentally as well.
Simmons: Who taught you how to head the ball? Did you ever think it would be become your trademark?
Abby: I did not receive the “secret to heading” from anyone in particular but I will say that my basketball career definitely has helped me develop that skill. Going up to head a ball is very similar to reading the ball “off the rim” to grab a rebound. Although a lot of heading is desire, there is a science to reading the spin of the ball and the angles at which you need to strike it.
Simmons: What lessons have sports taught you about leadership?
Angela: Sports taught me everything I need to know about leadership. That is one of the reasons that I wanted to have a conference like this. The lessons that you can take away from sports are invaluable and applicable to life outside of sports as well. When it comes to leadership and sports, I learned that there are different styles of leadership. Especially with a team sport, you have to have mixed roles, not everyone can talk all the time. Some people will be more vocal and others will express leadership through example. I also learned that leadership is earned and sometimes you have to make tough decisions when it matters the most.