Student Before Athlete

Natalia Ledezma is not your typical Division I college athlete. Since she was four years old, Ledezma has always been something special on the soccer field. As a freshman in high school she was called up to the United States National Team; then again as a sophomore, a junior and a senior. Despite her remarkable accomplishments on the field, Ledezma says that soccer does not define her, and she wants to pave a path for herself off the soccer field.

Although she had committed herself to UCLA from her sophomore year of high school, once she got there she came to the realization that it just wasn’t for her. After playing for UCLA her freshmen year, Ledezma did not appreciate the lack of emphasis on academics and found it difficult to prioritize soccer over school.

“I love soccer, but I play just to play, I’m here to mainly go to school,” Ledezma explained.

Once she made the decision to transfer to Irvine, Ledezma never looked back. She loves the relaxed atmosphere in Irvine, and feels like the environment here matches her personality much more.

After her graduation from UC Irvine, Ledezma hopes to pursue a career as a homicide detective, “mixed with a little psychology.” Her love for the field of psychology is another reason Ledezma finds UC-Irvine to be much more appealing than UCLA. “I like the fact that Irvine has so many research opportunities, especially in the field of psychology.”

The junior forward from La Mirada High School has never been short on talent, and her abilities on the field have never been questioned. In her first season with UC Irvine, Ledezma put up unbelievable numbers, recording 12 goals and 8 assists on her way to an incredible 32-point season; the fifth highest point total in UC Irvine history.

Despite her potential to be one of, if not the greatest, UC Irvine women’s soccer player, Ledezma is as humble as they come. She doesn’t consider herself better than anyone around her, and now just wants to focus on getting her degree in psychology and social behavior.

Soccer has the potential to play a much bigger role in Ledezma’s life, but she won’t allow it to. Although she has been scouted by professional teams and has joined the National Team on several occasions, Ledezma does not see herself playing professional soccer.

Ledezma would find playing professional soccer much more appealing if it wasn’t so competitive to get to that level. She describes the process as being, “too rigorous,” and says that she “would consider playing professionally if it wasn’t so hard to get to that level.”

On her experience with the National Team Ledezma says, “you can’t really make friends, even the    girls that come back every year it’s like, yeah we’re friends but at the end of the day I’m trying to play over you.”

For the majority of the last 21 years all Ledezma has known is soccer, but now she is trying to reprioritize her life and pursue her newfound interest in psychology.

“I don’t know if I lost my passion for soccer, but my priorities have definitely changed. I just have things ahead of soccer, like family and school,” Ledezma explained.

Regardless of what Natalia Ledezma decides to do with the rest of her life, one thing is for certain; she will excel. The qualities that got Ledezma to the United States National Team are those same qualities that will lead her to overall success.

Whether it’s Natalia Ledezma, professional soccer player, or detective Ledezma, I have a feeling this will not be the last time we hear her name.