Representing her community on the field reminds Alyssa Garcia about how her visibility on the field garners admiration from other young Latinas, especially when Garcia herself didn’t grow up seeing many Latina athletes.
“It’s just so powerful how you can reach so many little girls that look like you or may not have the representation and are messaging you saying they want to be like you, like it just means a lot.”
According to research conducted by the NCAA, the demographic database summary for 2021-2022 shows that out of all Division 1 student-athletes, only 6% identify as Hispanic or Latino. Meanwhile, UCLA’s Latinx population only makes up 21% of undergraduate students. These numbers speak volumes as to how Latinx representation can drastically improve in the classroom and on the field.
The fourth-year Chicana/o and Central American Studies major is a Chula Vista native who blasts Bad Bunny and hangs out at the beach. On the softball field, Alyssa represents a fraction of the Latinx athletes on campus.
Alyssa’s softball career began at a young age, with recruiters coming out to her games when she was only in the 7th grade.
Alyssa comes from a line of successful athletes, such as her father who used to play for the Seattle Mariners organization. Watching the pride that her father brought his family really lit up a path for Garcia to aim for the same success.
“It brought so much pride to my family, and my dad worked so hard and seeing all the generations of people from my family working so hard. I wanted to do that too.”
Following a shared family passion and her softball dream, Alyssa’s decision to choose UCLA was based not only on location, but diversity. “I definitely knew how important it was to have a community when I was older, and I knew that if I didn’t have people that looked like me or have at least some diversity, that I wasn’t gonna be comfortable where I was,” she explains. “That’s definitely a huge reason why I chose UCLA. I wanted to be in LA, where there’s a lot of diversity and a lot of culture, and it’s like two hours from home. And, of course, the degree.”
With family roots from all over Mexico – including Durango, Tijuana, Guadalajara and even Mexicali – Garcia proudly represents her Mexican roots. She expressed an interest in wanting to band together a Latinx Student-Athlete Alliance modeled after UCLA’s Black Student-Athlete Alliance in order to further the bonds between student-athletes who want to feel connected to a community while here at UCLA. In regards to proudly showcasing BIPOC student-athletes, Garcia shares, “I feel like Latinos, and other POC are not shown enough, especially in the athletic community, which is discouraging, because we should be talking about it.”
When asked about what it means to play for UCLA, Garcia shares that she wanted to show her parents that their work did not go unnoticed, “The amount of effort and work that my parents put into me for me to be successful, I just wanted to be successful for them. The fact that UCLA was a part of that journey, I was so proud.”
With family being Alyssa’s motivation for success, Alyssa wears #19 on her jersey in honor of the anniversary of her late grandfather’s passing on May 19th. She shares how her grandfather came from Mexico to El Centro, CA, where he worked in the fields and later met Alyssa’s grandmother.
Alyssa’s influence off the field reminds her just how much impact her position has outside of UCLA’s Easton Stadium. Garcia shared that she feels proud to be a figure that little girls who watch her play can look up to, as she did not have those figures growing up.
“There’s so many little girls, so many Latinas, that may not have the representation because I didn’t have that representation growing up. I didn’t see a lot of Latina athletes who I could look up to. If I can be that representation for little girls, that’s like my highlight of anything I could do.”
We discussed our favorite traditions and favorite foods. She shared that Christmas is when everyone comes together – regardless of the chisme happening. They make tamales together, and for New Year’s, her mom makes her favorite: pozole. “It’s just the best time,” Garcia says.
Alyssa had discussed an interest in staying close to home so that her family could see her on the field. She shares that her family shows up to all her games, and oftentimes, the Garcia family fills at least 15 seats in the stands to cheer her on. Looking forward to a new season, Alyssa expressed confidence in her team.
“The chemistry is really good this year. Everyone is clicking really well. We have eleven new girls, so a lot of new editions that are really healthy for the team,” she says.
Alyssa adds her excitement about a new season as it brings a new opportunity for winning, saying she’s “looking forward to winning a natty champ.” The UCLA Softball team is set to start that mission in the spring quarter when their official season begins.