Life on the Ball: Leslie Ayala on Balancing High School and Athletics









Interview by Maryalexis Gutierrez

Leslie Ayala has quite the specific and hectic schedule.

She wakes up every school day at 6:40 a.m. She goes to all her morning classes at Leadership Public Schools in Richmond. At lunch, she has a meeting to discuss strategies for her next game. Then the 17-year-old has more classes and goes straight to practice after school. After practice, she goes home to eat a quick dinner, takes a shower, and then attends to her homework before going to bed at 10 p.m. The next morning, she awakes to do it all over again.

Ayala stared playing soccer at the age of 10, which led her to basketball and volleyball as well. She is currently on the Dean’s list with a 3.6 GPA, proving she is both a hardworking athlete and student.

Richmond Pulse sat down with Ayala to talk about why she loves playing sports and how she balances her athletic commitments with her academics. It’s not always easy.

Richmond Pulse: What do you love about playing sports?

Leslie Ayala: I love to be in shape, create bonds with my teammates and, also, because it’s fun. I’ve played soccer every year of high school, and I was busy all the time. When it would end, I would feel very frustrated and bored, so I just decided to get involved with sports at different times of the year so I wouldn’t feel that way. I’m just very athletic. When I see a ball I start playing. People tell me that soccer is my best sport, but this year was my first year playing volleyball and it was really fun. I would consider that my favorite sport now.

At school, there are a lot of girls from different grade levels that try out for the teams that I wouldn’t actually meet. It feels nice to get know the person they are and create a bond. It creates new friendships for you.

RP: How did you first get started in sports?

LA: When I was 10 years old, I went to the park with my uncle and cousins, and I began playing soccer with them. One of my uncles noticed that I was good at it and suggested that I join his boys’ soccer team. At first, I wasn’t sure about it because I didn’t want the spotlight on me, but I ended up joining the team. I played for them for like six years, and I became the captain of the team throughout those years.

RP: How do you balance sports and academics, plus have a social life?

LA: When I have sports, I spend my afternoon practicing. Then I get home, and I eat and shower fast so that I can finish my homework before 9 p.m. From nine to bedtime, I chill and watch videos or my shows. Keeping up with so much, at first, sounds easy. It’s actually really hard because it does not give me much time for homework, and I have taken AP classes along with sports. It does not give much time to rest. I get home and straight to homework. But I have been on the Dean’s list since my freshman year.

RP: What’s the most challenging part?

LA: Since sports take up so much of my time, I kind of like rush my homework sometimes. When I played volleyball, I would get home at like eight at night. I still managed to keep my grades high. It’s just time management. You have to learn how to use your time wisely. I would prioritize some of harder homework and leave the rest for the morning.
Just prioritizing what’s most important.

RP: What are your plans after high school?

LA: I plan on going to college and major in something, I’m not sure about yet. Then get a job and work hard to buy my house. I´ve played sports for fun. I’m very competitive, but I don’t really want to play professionally.

I’ve never had a 3.8 or a 4.0 GPA. It just makes really me anxious. I hope that colleges see that I’ve worked hard balancing other things. I also took a lot of AP classes and they give a lot of homework. I’ve worked hard these four years. I know colleges want smart students with high GPAs. I’m not jealous of other students, but I’ve worked hard and I’m afraid colleges won’t look at that.

RP: Where do see yourself in five years?

LA: I want to go to UC Davis. I want to travel a lot and then come back to this area. I want to have my own home, a really nice home. Just succeed and take advantage of the opportunity. My parents immigrated from Mexico and they never got to go to college. I just hope I can make a change.

RP: What motivates you to keep going?

LA: I don’t really have a motivation. I do it because I like it.

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