Bruin Spotlight: Sydney Leroux

April 24, 2009

Freshman forward Sydney Leroux is recovering from a fall semester of double-duty with the Bruins and with the US Under-20 Women's National Team. Last December she won the Golden Ball as the U-20 Women's World Cup's Best Player and the Golden Shoe as the tournament's top scorer. Leroux sat down with contributor Christelle Nahas to discuss her decision to leave Canada, her tattoo collection, and the childhood dream she's still pursuing.

How was your spring break?
It was good, I went to Cancun with my mom. She lives in Vancouver so I hadn't seen her forever.

You're originally from Vancouver. What brought you to UCLA?
I always wanted to go to school in the States. I wanted a school I felt like I could help and that I could contribute to. One that hadn't won a national championship yet, but was capable of it. I love that. I would never want to go to a school like North Carolina because it's already been done. I want to start something here - be a part of something.

What's your nickname on the field?
'Sid,' usually. Two of my friends, Wilmy (Lauren Wilmoth) and (Kristina) Larsen call me 'Dingle,' after how my hair used to be. My last name rhymes with my number, so that's kind of a little joke. But yeah, 'Sid,' pretty much.

Do you have a major yet?
I'm majoring in Psychology. It's tough.

What's one of the toughest parts about being a student-athlete?
It's the catching up. I missed about three months of school for the World Cup, so always having to catch up is the hardest part for me.

You had an incredible performance at the U-20 Women's World Cup in Chile last December. You scored the winning goal in the final. This was the day after the Bruins were knocked out of the College Cup by North Carolina. Did you wish you could be in two places at once?
I did. It was really hard, being a freshman and having to leave. I was sad that we lost, but I kind of had to let it go and win for my team and for the U.S. But (UCLA) were so close. We've been so close for what, six years now? So I think it's just around the corner. And I've got three more years. (laughs)

You've represented both Canada and the USA at the Youth National Team level. At some point you have to decide...
Oh, I've already decided. I'm staying here, with the U.S. National Team. You can only make the switch once, and I've already done it.

Was it a tough decision?
I had 'made it' in Canada so to speak, so I had a name there. Switching over was going to be hard because they didn't know me [in the USA]. I actually had a coach from the U.S. tell me, 'You should just go back to Canada, there are too many good players that are just as good or better than you are here.' And was like, 'No way!' I'd left my family, I'd left my friends, I'd left everything I'd ever known to chase this dream I've had since I was a little girl. Then I have this guy telling me that it's not going to happen? And it's funny, because we just won the World Cup, and I was part of it.

Tell me about your dream.
When I was a little girl, I told my mom, 'I want to be the best soccer player.' I had a coach who said, 'You know, you should get her to play for the U.S.,' since my Dad's American and I have dual citizenship. I played for Canada, and after I got back from the World Cup I made my decision to come and play for the U.S. It's a work in progress, I still have so much to accomplish.

Do you miss Vancouver?
It's seriously my favorite place in the world - nothing beats it. I don't see myself living back home again because of how many opportunities there are in the U.S. compared to Canada. But I mean, Canada is my favorite place and the people are great. It's just awesome to live there and to grow up there.

It's no secret you have a lot of tattoos. How old were you when you got your first?
I was 13. I made a bet with my Mom about how many goals I could score at Nationals in Canada, and I won. So she had to go through with it. She didn't want to, but she had to.

How many do you have?
I have one on my wrist, two on my neck, one on my hip and two on my feet. My back has kind of become one piece. It's actually three pieces: a quote, a tree attached, and then I got flowers added on.

The one on your neck is what most of us see from the stands, what does it mean?
My mom and I have the same initials, 'SL' and that's what I have. I love her to death, I guess it always reminds me of her. She actually just got my name tattooed when we were in Cancun. So she has my name and I have our names.

Do you have any advice for young girls hoping to play at UCLA?
It's not as easy as it sounds, but it's so worth it. I mean, practice and weights and school are a lot to deal with, and then having a social life outside of that - it's hard. But I wouldn't want to be anywhere else, I love it here. I would just tell them to keep following your dreams, and if going to UCLA is one of them, keep at it. When you're here you'll understand how much work we put into it every day. I think it's an awesome place to be, having everyone around you want the same thing as you do.

Do you follow any other sports?
Yeah, my boyfriend plays football, so I kind of have to follow that. But I really don't. I don't even follow soccer, actually. I really just play. I never watch TV so I don't really know what's going on, I'm kind of clueless.

Are you going to any Women's Pro Soccer games?
Yeah, I definitely want to go watch the Sol cause my old teammate McCall (Zerboni) plays on the team. I want to go support her. Marta also plays on the Sol and I met her when I was in Switzerland for the FIFA World Player of the Year. I got to talk to her, even though she doesn't really speak English. So it would be nice seeing her again.

Do you have a favorite quote or philosophy that shapes your game?
'When you feel like you've hit rock bottom, the only way you can go is up.' I feel like every time we're down, even if the other team scores another goal, we're still in the same place. We still need to score, we just have to do it more times. So for me, when I'm down a goal or when I'm not doing well, I just think, 'It can't get any worse than this, so you might as well just push through it.'

Going back to that coach who told you you should just play in Canada where you had already made it, what do you think of that now?
I was mad that someone would say that to a 15-year old girl - I thought that was wrong. But at the same time, it added fuel to the fire. I knew what I needed to do. And it's funny because my team played his team and we won 2-0 and I scored both the goals.

Yeah, it was a little revenge. It's been a long road but I'm happy.

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