“I think that there’s never been a more important moment for women in this country,” Wambach, 38, says in an exclusive interview with PEOPLE.
“I think that what women need more than anything is their individual power and to tap into the collective power of all women,” she continues. “Every woman has their inner wolf and my belief — my dream — and what I’ve become obsessed with is that every woman find and unleash their wolf so they can unite their pack.”
The two-time Olympic gold medalist and FIFA World Cup champion was inspired to write her second book — which will be released by Celadon Books on April 16, 2019 — after reaching some personal revelations following her 2015 retirement.
Wambach recalls receiving the ESPY icon award in 2016, alongside the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant and the Denver Broncos’ Peyton Manning. While she felt honored, she says it also triggered a realization that was like a “slap” in the face.
“I’m retiring from my career, standing up with two of the most decorated athletes that have played any sport and I’m still feeling grateful,” Wambach says. “As I walk off the stage, I realize, it like slaps me in the face, my career is now done and look at the three of us walking into different retirements.”
Wambach respects both men and thinks they deserve everything they’ve earned, but explains she’s frustrated by the disparity in her pay compared to theirs.
“Here I am trying to recreate a new life for myself, having scored more goals than women or men at the international level, and I’m now having to start my hustle and they’re [ending theirs],” she says. “This didn’t make sense to me. What the hell is going on here? I just got so angry.”
The soccer star brought up the same story, as well as important lessons she’s learned about self empowerment, during the commencement speech she delivered at Barnard College in 2018. The speech immediately went viral and inspired Wambach to write Wolfpack.
She says the book will focus on a set of seven rules (like “make failure your fuel” and “lead from the bench”) to guide women so they can discover their own power. The book will further draw on lessons Wambach learned during her soccer career as well as in her personal life.
Wambach has long been candid about her personal struggles, including substance abuse, as well as her experience coming out to her conservative family. In May 2017, she married bestselling author Glennon Doyle.
“I have struggled with addiction, I have… had issues with family,” she says. “These are things all women everywhere have been dealing with in one way or another.”
Wambach says she’s made a point of being honest about her past and her failures because it’s helped her claim her power. And she wants others to do the same.
“I don’t do the victimhood mentality. That isn’t something that has ever been a part of my existence as a person and I think it’s part of why I’ve been able to be so honest and candid about some of these big failures of my life,” she says. “I think that as soon as you start getting honest, you can start getting rid of the secrets, and then you can start being truly, truly yourself.”
Explaining that “the old ways of operating are gone,” Wambach admits she has regrets about not challenging the sexism and pay disparity she faced while playing soccer. For her, the #MeToo movement is the signal that now is the time to fight for equality — not just for other female soccer players — but for all women. And her requests are pretty straight forward.
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“My concern lies in no way with men right now. My concern is to wake the women of the world up to the power that we have inside of us,” she says. “The opposite of patriarchy in my mind is not matriarchy. I don’t want women ruling the world, that’s not what we want. We just want an equal amount of seats at the table.”
One recent incident that has sparked conversations about sexism and equality was tennis star Serena Williams’ verbal dispute with an umpire in the U.S. Open women’s singles final last weekend.
“Here’s the thing, there’s many different subtle ways of being discriminated against,” Wambach says. “And Serena is dealing with a whole bunch: she’s best in the world, so she’s going to get scrutinized the most; she’s a woman of color; she’s a woman; [and] she’s just coming back from having a baby.”
She continues, “[Serena] is a literal walking, breathing science experiment at how the world relates to people that are perceived as less than or marginalized. What Serena got herself into and what the world has witnessed and what this guy, this umpire, has put out into the universe was just a microcosm of what’s been happening in our culture.”
Wambach says she’s “proud” to know Williams and argues there is a much bigger lesson to be learned from the episode.
“Women and men alike need to figure out where they stand on this issue,” she explains. “Because if you are a man frustrated by the women’s movement right now, ask yourself these questions: Why are you frustrated? If you’re a man appalled at seeing Serena Williams stick up for herself in a sporting event you need to check yourself. You have to go to the base of it because this woman, who is strong and powerful, was talking to a man in a certain way. Did it make you feel different? Did it make you feel scared?”
For Wambach, now is the time to “wake up” and strive for change.
“I think what this moment is calling for is for women not to feel grateful anymore,” she says. “We can be grateful and also demand what we want, also demand respect.”