Soccer star Abby Wambach conducts clinic at day camp in Merrick
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A month after she set the record for goals scored in international play, Abby Wambach lined up for a penalty kick on Tuesday in Merrick.
Behind her, fans screamed, and in front, a goalie bounded back and forth. Then, Wambach took a step forward and struck the ball toward the left of the goal -- only to have 11-year old Julia Cavanagh of Rockville Centre stretch out and make a diving save.
"My whole life felt like it depended on that [shot]," said Cavanagh, "and I saved it. Abby is my idol, so it felt good."
Said Wambach of Cavanagh: "She looked like she knew what she was doing out there. You got to give it up for a kid that can save a fairly well taken kick from me."
Cavanagh's moment in the spotlight came at Coleman Country Day Camp, where Wambach, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and forward for the U.S. women's national team, hosted a soccer clinic for several hundred campers, ages 3-13.
"There's nothing like being in a position to talk to these kids," Wambach said. "I was in their shoes once. Now, I'm not just a pro, I'm a role model."
Throughout the morning and early afternoon, Wambach, between shrieks from the campers, took questions -- "What do you eat for breakfast?" -- taught fundamentals and offered an opportunity for a few campers to test themselves against one of the greatest players in the world.
She also gave campers a high-five -- and for an enthusiastic few, a hug -- as each group ran off the field, allowing a fresh bunch of smiling youngsters to bounce into their place.
"I want them to feel like they can do something bigger than seems possible," she said.
Coleman Country Day Camp has hosted clinics by Brett Gardner of the Yankees, Ike Davis of the Mets and Steve Weatherford of the Giants in past years, according to camp owner and director Ross Coleman. This summer, as Coleman hopes to teach campers what it means to "be the difference" and "dream bigger," he turned to Wambach for help.
"I really wanted a super female athlete," Coleman said. "And Abby, she's not only the greatest soccer player in the world, but a better person and an amazing role model. To say we're thrilled to have her does not do it justice. She's so terrific, and so terrific for our kids, to show them dedication, hard work and perseverance."