ONEONTA _ Abby Wambach may be just what the doctor ordered for professional women's soccer to make a full recovery.
Still sidelined by a compound fracture to her left leg, Rochester native and U.S. National Women's Team standout Wambach made a point to sit down and talk to hundreds of local modified soccer players this past weekend at the National Soccer Hall of Fame.
Local schools such as Oneonta High, Unatego and South Kortright participated in a Sunday afternoon question-and-answer session with Wambach, part motivational speaker, part Women's Professional Soccer league promoter during a program that lasted a little more than a half-hour.
Wambach, 28, candidly answered dozens of questions about her personal and professional lives during the second day of her first visit to the soccer shrine. Seated in front of a packed bleacher area inside the museum _ just to the right of an exhibit honoring the defunct Women's United Soccer Association _ Wambach called on a girl who best illustrated the WPS's biggest obstacle.
"I forgot your name," the girl sheepishly said to Wambach, a two-time U.S. Soccer Female Athlete of the Year whose 99 goals in 127 games marks the best strike rate in U.S. women's soccer history.
"It's not personal," Wambach said after the program, "but the beauty of it is now that girl knows who I am. I'm not this superstar who's unavailable. I'll talk to anybody."
Wambach often spoke of the link between youth involvement and the survival of women's soccer at the professional level.
"Soccer's the most popular sport at the young ages, but then in high school and after, it just drops off," she said. "So, we have to bridge that gap somehow and how do you do that? You give the kids more face time so they have more inspiration and more opportunities to play."