JACKSONVILLE, Fla.— Integrity, commitment, and determination—these are some of the qualities one might look for in a leader.
All three of these are qualities one would see in Natalia Harley.
One of three captains on the women’s soccer team, Harley has shown those around her what it means to be a leader.
“She is a great leader,” says Laura Kane, who functions as the head coach for women’s soccer. “She is one of our captains, so that stood out early-on.”
Harley has seen much accomplishment in her time playing soccer. In Costa Rica, Harley’s home country, she played for a club team known as Dimas Escazú.
“Right when I was starting to train, they were talking about how the national team was recruiting players, so I went in and started training with them,” Harley says. “And then I started my soccer career from there.”
Harley went on to play in the U-17 World Cup.
Perhaps this level of success can be attributed to Harley’s level of motivation.
Kane recalled when Harley showed her leadership potential during a planking test. In this test, the women had to plank for as long as they could.
According to Kane, while almost everyone else dropped out around the two-minute-mark, Harley stuck it out for about six minutes.
“She could have stopped at any point,” Kane says. “She far surpassed everybody else and it wasn’t so much about beating everybody as it was about doing the absolute best that she could.”
It is this kind of desire to do her best that makes Harley stand out.
In addition to being wholly dedicated, Kane says that Harley shows her leadership skills in her empathetic nature.
“We’ve had a couple of conversations where situations have happened on the team and she’s come to me and I could sense her struggle with situations because she just cares so deeply for everyone on the team,” Kane says. “And I think in situations where it can be easy for kids this age to take sides, she didn’t want to.”
While Harley shows a love for her teammates, the players aren’t the only thing she loves about the sport.
“I’ve watched soccer since I was little,” she says. “There’s this experience and the passion of soccer, playing in the field, putting all your effort in, working hard, and then getting end results after working hard for something.”
Perhaps it is this passion for soccer that has kept Harley going, despite adversities that have come her way.
As a freshman, Harley was faced with an injury that resulted in her sitting out for most of the season. Harley tore her ACL along with both of her menisci.
“A lot of people give up after having an injury or they get too frustrated,” Harley says. “But I feel like this injury has helped me become the person I am, and it’s helped me to grow as a player, as a person, and on a lot of levels.”
One thing is evident: those around Harley are quick to paint her in a positive light.
“From a character standpoint, she’s just stood out,” says Kane. “She’s always giving her absolute best and always encouraging others around her to do the same.”