ANAHEIM, Calif. (June 13, 2017) – The U.S. Women’s National Team has incorporated a weekly Life Skills program that complements the squad’s regular physical training by bringing in keynote speakers to talk to the team and providing advice on life off the court.
“We have had a number of good speakers in so far,” U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach Karch Kiraly said.
The latest speaker in the recurring series was Jim Abbott, who made a name for himself as the first one-handed pitcher in Major League Baseball. He stopped by the American Sports Centers in Anaheim – the host city for the U.S. Women’s and Men’s National Teams – on June 12 and captivated the group with his message about overcoming his own challenges and accepting change.
The Life Skills series has also brought other big names. Kerri Walsh Jennings, a four-time Olympic beach volleyball medalist with three golds and one bronze medals along with being a member of the 2000 U.S. Olympic Women’s Indoor Volleyball Team, touched on motherhood and how to be a high-level athlete and mom. She also discussed adversity coming back from a tough match, relating her experiences losing in the 2016 Olympic Games semifinals to win Olympic bronze.
Kristin Klein, a four-time volleyball all-American at Stanford University and member of the 1996 U.S. Olympic Women’s Volleyball Team, and her husband Adam Keefe, an NBA player, spoke on finances 101, how to establish credit, manage debt and financial planning.
Tracy Hughes, who serves as the vice-chair of USA Volleyball’s diversity and inclusion committee, talked to the team on preparing for a career after volleyball and how athletes can build their own brands.
Abbott, who played 10 seasons for four different teams and retired with 87 major league victories, has a list of major accomplishments including throwing a no-hitter for the New York Yankees versus Cleveland on Sept. 4, 1993. Abbott, the 1987 Sullivan Award winner as the top amateur athlete in any sport, was the starting pitcher in the 1988 Olympic Games gold-medal game in which Team USA won 5-3. Now he serves as a motivational speaker to many groups.
“It was a blast. It was really fun,” Abbott said of speaking to the nearly 35 athletes and coaches of the Women’s National Team program.
Abbott said it was great sharing his memories of playing for USA Baseball and how it can relate to the U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team as they embark on the new Olympic cycle.
“It brought back so many memories,” Abbott said after talking with the team. “I remember the USA process and playing for the USA Baseball program, and the work that goes into it that is kind of the behind-the-scenes grittiness and also the glamour of representing of your country. I loved every second of it.”
Abbott, who also starred in high school as a one-handed quarterback, has seen his share of volleyball as well from the crowd and on television. His daughter, Maddy, is a rising junior setter at the University of Michigan, played her freshman season with current U.S. Women’s National Team Assistant Coach Erin Virtue as her setting coach. Prior to Michigan, Maddy played at A4 and Prime volleyball clubs in Southern California.
One of Abbott’s main messages to the U.S. Women was to be accepting of your differences.
“Open mindedness to change, willingness to do things in a different way,” Abbott shared with the team how he adapted to playing with one hand when no one else thought he could. “And realizing that, although you may do it differently, it doesn’t mean it is any less effective.”
He encouraged the U.S. Women to not only just play the game, but to take in the process.
“Embrace the moment. Live it. Feel It. It goes by so fast,” Abbott said.
Abbott also delivered a message about how to handle defeat and bouncing back. Five days before throwing his no-hitter against Cleveland, the same Indians roster knocked him out of the game early and was a disappointing loss.
“When we come up against defeat, it is not a matter of re-inventing the wheel, but it is a matter of reinforcing the trust in things you have already done and clarifying your strengths,” Abbott said.