Although professional athletes often make the game look easy, the path to the pros is hardly ever smooth. This was certainly true for U.S. soccer stars Hope Solo and Abby Wambach. Their roads to the top were unpaved and filled with potholes of adversity.
“There [were] a lot of obstacles along the way,” says Solo, the team’s top goaltender. “Many people have doubted my ability.” But being doubted only added fuel to a fire that was already blazing within Solo. Oddly enough, she began her soccer career not defending the net, but ripping shots into the back of it for her state-champion high school team. Coming from a broken family in a small town, where few people make it big, Solo displayed Jedi-like skills on the pitch, scoring more than 100 goals.
Recruited by the University of Washington, Solo dealt with adversity in college when she was moved from the forward position to goalkeeper. Rising to the challenge, she pushed herself to train harder, eventually becoming the Huskies’ all-time leader in clean sheets, saves and goals against.
A four-time All-Pac-10 player, Solo faced a new challenge when she had to leave the U.S. to play professional soccer. “We didn’t have a professional league [in the U.S.], so I had to play overseas,” she says. “I missed all my family and friends and a lot of unique events that I would have loved to have been a part of."
For Wambach, tough times didn’t strike until she earned a spot on the U.S. team. “When I first got on this team, I was left off rosters [and] I wasn’t making starting squads,” Wambach says. This was hard on her confidence, but she says, “The only person…[who] can help you pick that up and get back that confidence is yourself.”
Despite having been a top high school player and a standout at the University of Florida, Wambach was initially relegated to reserve status on the U.S. team. But her teammates never gave up on her, and she thanks them for restoring the confidence she needed in order to excel. “My teammates sticking by me and me working hard every single day allowed me to get to the place where I’m at now,” she says.
For Solo and Wambach, overcoming adversity on and off the field has helped make them two of the top players in the world.