Sporting hot pink manicured nails, diamond studded earrings with silver sequined sandals to match, no one would know that Whitneigh Braxton, 21, was an aggressive goal-scoring machine for the Vaqueros women’s soccer team.
Since she was little, Braxton has been an athlete. She danced tap, hip-hop and ballet, but she always found her way to open-field competitive sports.
“I remember my mom was in the kitchen one day and asked, ‘Do you want to play soccer?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, okay! What is soccer?’” said Braxton.
Her parents didn’t know too much about the sport when 7 year-old Braxton started playing, except that it was on a field, and it was better than her playing football with her younger brother. The Ice-Breakers was Braxton’s first team in AYSO. She scored a goal in her first game.
“I caught on right away,” said Braxton.
She started playing on two to three teams at a time a few years later.
“I would leave one game and go straight to another,” said Braxton, “and slowly but surely I started loving it. I was too young to really understand what love was, but I knew that whatever I was doing I wanted to keep doing it.”
Braxton started playing on the club team Barcelona and faced her first challenges as an athlete when she was 10 years-old. Braxton found that there were other girls on her team that were better than her, so she started to take the sport seriously.
“I would go out in my backyard and practice by myself, to make my kick stronger,” said Braxton.
Braxton joined different club teams she excelled in the competitive environment, and she was doing well until she hit a mental roadblock when she was nearly 14 years old.
“One season, I just felt like I was so off,” said Braxton. “It was just breaking my heart game after game. I was good enough to start but I wasn’t playing at my best. I didn’t know what was going on with me and I didn’t know how to fix it. So, it kind of made me lose that love [for soccer].”
Braxton felt as if she was at a dead end. She kept pushing herself to play faster and more aggressively but didn’t see any personal progress.
Around the same time her mental block with soccer began Braxton’s relationship with her father was getting rockier.
Torrie, Braxton’s best friend since she was three, remembers Braxton’s father as being very strict.
“She felt sensitive to it (her father’s attitude) because he was harder on her than most parents should be. Even though he thought it was for her own good,” confessed Torrie, “ she had to do what he wanted to her to do. He meant for her to do well but he was hard on her.”
“I wasn’t allowed to do certain things that other girls my age were allowed to do, like spending the night at a friend’s house when I was 13 years-old,” said Braxton.
“I’m his only daughter and first child. I understand that he just wanted to protect me and shelter me,” said Braxton. “But he had to let me grow up and make my own mistakes.”
Braxton admits that her father did help her keep her mind in the ‘right place.’
“He’s a great father, don’t get me wrong, it’s just one of those things where we just did not get along,” said Braxton. “ We both loved each other so much, it’s just I am a very outspoken person, and so is he so we would clash.”
Braxton moved out of her parents’ house in Altadena over to her grandparents house in Pasadena when she was 17 years old. After she moved her relationship with her father healed, and today they have a better understanding of one another.
Meanwhile, Braxton’s mental soccer block hadn’t gone away. She stopped playing after high school.
“I got tired of it. Soccer was just something that I grew to love at such a young age, and I played it my whole life,” said Braxton. “I was still not as good as I wanted to be, and I wondered, ‘where did all these years go?’ It made me frustrated. I found myself giving up then.”
She realized how much she missed one of her first loves when she was watching a soccer game on TV with her grandmother over a year and a half ago.
‘I don’t know why you gave that up. You had so much talent, you could’ve gone somewhere with that,’ Braxton’s grandmother told her. It was then that Braxton decided to come back and play for GCC.
Braxton tried to play last year but had to wait due to tendonitis in her left foot. She returned to the field this year to discover that she still had talent
“I always tell my parents if I were to catch amnesia, the one thing my body would remember is soccer,” said Braxton.
Unfortunately Braxton has had to put playing soccer on hold again because of a dislocated shoulder during a game against Valley College. Braxton is currently waiting to see if she will need surgery or not. She is praying for a speedy recovery so she can return to the field.