RYAA Impacts a Soccer Player

Leslie was raised in the West Side of East Palo Alto. She has been a soccer player for RYAA for a number of years and has experienced being a player, as well as a coach here. We interviewed Leslie on the impact that RYAA has had on her, as well as some of her dreams and aspirations as she graduates from Menlo-Atherton High School this Spring.

Where would you like to go to college, and what do you want to study there?

I want to go to Azusa Pacific University and I want to major in Performing Arts and minor in Psychology.

What are some of your goals with that degree?

My goals with Psychology are to help other people. I want to be a counselor and help kids that have problems with their family, or even with behavior. I just want to be there and be someone they can open up to. I had problems when I was younger that did not get better until I saw a therapist, so that’s what I eventually want to be. With Performing Arts I want to become a better singer and performer. People do not understand the guts that you have to have when you get on stage, not just to sing, but to open your heart and tell a story. It’s like I can tell my life through a song when I’m on stage, and I want to continue to do that. I want to record music, and I want to have big concerts.

How many years have you been playing soccer for RYAA?

The first time I played with RYAA, I was in 7th grade. I remember I played for a team called The Blue Jays, and our uniforms were blue and black. My coach was April. 

What were you able to learn as a player in the RYAA league?

When I first started playing, I was very shy. Then I learned that to play on a team, you can’t just play with your teammates, but you should get to know your teammates in order to bring leadership to the field. I love being the captain, not because I want to boss people around, but I just want to be there for my teammates. 

From what you have learned at RYAA, what makes a good leader?

A good leader is someone who can tell you if you did something wrong, but in a way that builds you up. I learned this from my coaches while with RYAA. In club soccer, it’s really different. A lot of times other coaches just tell you what to do and how you messed up, but at RYAA they want to teach you and serve you. So I think a leader serves, and a leader builds people up instead of putting them down all the time.

How has your experienced been being a coach for RYAA?

Being a coach has taught me so much. It is hard and you are forced to be a leader, but I love it. I have to be harsh, but sensitive at the same time. These girls bring their emotions from home to the soccer field, and it’s up to me to lead them through those emotions and make them focus on soccer. I love being there for people, and being a coach allows me to be there for girls that don’t have anyone else to talk to. I thank RYAA for opening the doors for me to be a coach. 

Tell us your favorite story from being a coach.

I will never forget this. One of my little players, she told me, “I want to be JUST like you when I grow up. I want to play like you and I just want to be like you. I just love you.” My heart melted, you know? I never had anybody tell me that. It was huge.