Goal-getter: Izabella Herrera’s rise to soccer stardom

At age five, Izabella Herrera discovered her love for soccer. Now, as a senior, she’s a starter for the girls soccer varsity team.
Senior Izabella Herrera has been playing soccer since she was five. After taking a break due to the covid-19 pandemic and academic pressures, she returned to the sport and is now one of the starters for the girls soccer team.
Senior Izabella Herrera has been playing soccer since she was five. After taking a break due to the covid-19 pandemic and academic pressures, she returned to the sport and is now one of the starters for the girls soccer team.

Growing up, Izabella Herrera dipped her toes into many different sports, such as track, swim, softball and many others.

However, none truly stuck with her as much as soccer did. 

One of the main reasons she leaned more towards soccer was because of the emotional bond it created with her older sister. They both played soccer at the time, so it allowed them to grow closer to one another. 

“Soccer was just something that resonated with me primarily because it was something that I shared throughout my life with my older sister,” Herrera said. “Throughout the years, we’ve grown really close and soccer was one of the first things we were able to bond through because we were so different, so it holds a deep spot in my heart because of that.” 

Another major reason why soccer was the sport for her was because it gave her the freedom to socialize. Soccer was a team-oriented sport that required her to interact with others more often than she usually would.

“I got to meet a bunch of new people outside of school,” Herrera said. “I grew up kind of a shy kid, and I had a hard time making a lot of friends, especially around my elementary years. Being introduced to soccer, that was kind of putting my foot through the door and learning how to socialize more, it definitely helped me gain confidence.”

This, in turn, led her to mature and become a leader. 

“It helped me learn how to be a leader as well as take losses and win in different ways,” she said. “In some aspects it helped me manage my emotions, because when you’re on the field dedicated to something with a lot of feelings not just from yourself but from other players you have to know how to manage that, so it helped me become a more mature person overall.”

At the age of five, Herrera started playing for her local park throughout her elementary school years, working her way up to becoming a team captain for her local soccer team. Later on, when she was in middle school, she joined the team club Boca, where she was able to further her soccer skills and career. 

Everything was going well for her, as she was playing the sport she loved and making new friends. Little did she know she was going to face many challenges later on in her soccer career. 

“Coming back to high school after the break kind of hit me hard because I lost a lot of skill, and losing that kind of made me lose my confidence in myself as a player,” Herrera said. “I guess just rebuilding what I had was really hard, but it was just a whole mental and physical endurance that I had to go through.”

Herrera found herself choosing between her two beloved hobbies: soccer and music. She realized that she couldn’t partake in both at the same time because they would interfere with one another, so she had to stop practicing music to pursue her soccer career. 

“We would have to go to different concerts at different schools which would require practice outside of school time and on the weekends,” she said. “A lot of soccer is primarily laid on the weekends, and with tournaments, you would be out there for the whole day or weekend. And that was just a whole schedule that you had to work around. So I did have to drop the orchestra.”

With the covid-19 pandemic, Herrera ended up having to take a break from her soccer activities for two years. After she came back to high school for her sophomore year, Herrera found herself facing confidence issues with her sport.

Aside from that, the academic struggles of being a student athlete kicked in. She had to find ways to balance her sport and her academics, which led to her taking long breaks from soccer.

“It’s definitely hard being a student athlete,” Herrera said. “Unfortunately there are gonna be some nights where you’re up till one in the morning. It’s just a matter of finding what works for you and not overworking yourself because at some points, you have to know your limits and if things are becoming too much you have to take a step back, and there have been times where I have taken breaks from soccer. I have taken a year off from the sport as a whole. It was just me finding a way to keep a balance, and to keep myself OK.” 

When she came back for her final year of high school soccer, she discovered that conditions on the team weren’t the same as they used to be. Voices weren’t being heard, and feelings were being hurt. 

“As I got older, I became an independent person,” she said. “I’ve had my own issues with coaches, and when I felt like I wasn’t being heard or seen by my coaches even though I’m putting my all into working hard and I’m being a good player. It’s frustrating to know that the coach doesn’t wanna notice you or acknowledge you. So I’ve contemplated quitting a couple of times because of coaches I didn’t mix well with.” 

In spite of these challenges, however, she kept pushing out of her love of the sport, an effort that led her to become one of the starters for the girls soccer team. 

“I had to overcome those things knowing that I can’t let one person take away my joy from the sport that I know at the end of the day I love with all my heart,” Herrera said. “Especially because I have a lot of bonds with the younger girls who look up to me and I didn’t wanna quit it just because I was feeling upset at the moment. Throughout the season, we had a lot of good moments regardless if we won or lost. Overall, I’m glad I didn’t quit the team.”

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About the Contributor
Chioma Chiawa
Chioma Chiawa, Staff
Chioma Chiawa is a junior in her first year of journalism. She enjoys reading comic books, baking cookies, and watching the UCLA women's volleyball team. She enjoys reading “Real Friends” by Shannon Hale and listening to A$AP Rocky and The Weeknd. She intends to enter a 4 year university and get her Bachelor's Degree in Nursing.
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