From Low Points to High Performance, The Defense Strategies of Sofia Huerta
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Mexican-American soccer player Sofia Huerta understands that you must protect your mind and body to give your best defense on the soccer pitch.
Soccer can be a battlefield. It’s a physical game that tests players’ minds, bodies, and souls. But that isn’t the only test. After every loss, players must learn to cope with the emotions of defeat and not meet their expectations of what they should have done.
Huerta tells mitú that to be at the top of your game, you must have a lot of “mental toughness, motivation and discipline.”
Sofia Huerta had to rework her definition of success
The OL Reign defender reveals that the “most important challenge” a player faces within their soccer career is knowing how to defend themselves from the “lows.”
“The most important challenge in this profession [are] the lows: the losses or not a good performance. Trying to dig yourself out of that and to stay balanced mentally is tough,” she tells mitú.
Huerta admits that she had to rework her narrative of success. “Just because I’m not on the national team doesn’t mean I’m unsuccessful. It doesn’t mean I’m not a great player,” she said in a previous interview.
One look at her career roster, and you can get an understanding of the kind of player that Huerta is. She played soccer, basketball, and track in high school and garnered accolade after accolade. As a Santa Clara University Bronco, it was much of the same.
Her post-collegiate soccer career saw her play for Mexico’s National Team. After that, she transitioned to play for the United States Women’s National Team.
Playing for Mexico found her having to defend her Latinidad
While Huerta is a proud Latina who finds it “an honor to step on the field and represent the Latina community,” she didn’t have the easiest go during her time in Mexico. She once explained that fans had a tough time accepting her as part of the team.
“I think, um, when I was there — you know, I don’t know what’s appropriate to say or not, but I was called, like, a gringa,” she explains.
“Well, you know, I have lighter hair. You know, I have lighter skin. So, I think people were just questioning how Mexican I was. Which is just so funny because I’m like, ‘you guys, like, my blood is from — my family is from Mexico. I go there all the time. So it was always pretty difficult for people to understand who I really was,” the OL Reign defender shared.
Huerta tells mitú, “Making the decision to play for [the] U.S. instead of Mexico, the act of switching affiliations after already playing for the Mexico National Team, was a massive decision that I did not take lightly.”
“Once I switched to the USWNT and got called into camps, [but] in 2018, I stopped getting calls into camp for almost three years. After switching alliances and getting a taste for my decision, I didn’t want to have a feeling of regret. In 2021, I got called back in and was so happy,” she admits.
She has overcome adversity due to her high level of mental toughness and prioritizing a good defense
“You can’t win championships without defense. Everything starts from behind: our voice, the distribution of passes, seeing the field, etc. The game has evolved so much that defense also starts your attack,” she asserts.
Huerta adds, “It takes a lot of mental toughness, motivation and discipline. People don’t realize how much personal motivation you must have to stay at the top. If you want to have a long career, you need to understand what your body and mind need every day; you have to perfect that aspect of it.”
The 30-year-old defender reveals that her recipe for her killer defense is believing in herself.
“I would say regardless of [the] adversity that you are going to face, you are strong enough to overcome any of that if you just believe in yourself,” Huerta points out.
But a good defense on the field doesn’t just come down to the individual player. It’s a team effort.
Huerta explains to mitú that the defensive line needs to be “very in sync.” Keeping “the defensive shape” is the only way to succeed.
“There are times during a game that it will be individual, and as a defender, it would be one-versus-one, and you will have to focus on the individual performance. But the defense is a collective effort on the field all over. You can’t depend on just one person,” she concludes.
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