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Rocky Rodriguez’s Goals Go Beyond The Soccer Field

While Penn Staters know her for her soccer success, Rocky Rodriguez has one goal that is much more impressive than any scored on the field. She wants to see those who look up to her become the best version of themselves, and she wants to give them an easier route than she did to get there.

In the 72nd minute of the 2015 National Championship, Rodriguez scored the only goal of the 1-0 win over the Duke Blue Devils. Many prestigious awards complement her accomplishments in her senior season, including being honored as 2014 Big Ten Midfielder of the Year, 2015 NSCAA Scholar Player of the Year, and even as the recipient of the 2015 MAC Hermann Trophy for the best female Division I player.

However, behind Rodriguez’s goals for athletic success is a goal that extends further than sports, academics, or her own personal achievement. For Rodriguez, real success comes from helping others succeed — only then will she celebrate true victory.

Raquel “Rocky” Rodriguez Cedeño was born in San Jose, Costa Rica. Early on, she started following in the athletic footsteps of her father, professional soccer player Sivianni Rodriguez. Rocky Rodriguez’s passion for the game grew into a deep desire to be the best and to one day play professionally. However, as she grew and progressed as a player, she recognized the obstacles she faced as a female athlete in Costa Rica. In a country dominated by men’s soccer, there was little value, if any at all, placed on the cultivation of female players.

Rodriguez fought every day against inner voices and outside onlookers who told her she could not overcome these conditions in order to succeed in the game she loves. Instead, her drive propelled her success as an athlete. She began to play with the Costa Rica Women’s National Team in 2012 before joining the Nittany Lions later that year. She has had a few stints with the National Team during her college years too, including at the 2015 Women’s World Cup where she scored her country’s first goal in tournament history.

She’s faced plenty of adversity, but Rodriguez turned her frustration into motivation in order to improve conditions for the next generation of female soccer players in her home country. She is currently formulating plans for an integrated academic and athletic program for women in Costa Rica, which she hopes will give future women athletes a legacy of better conditions than the ones she grew up with.

Rodriguez believes that investing in women as athletes encourages them to feel empowered in any dream they hope to pursue. She has personally felt the effects of athletics on her own sense of self and her own principles, and hopes to be able to share this with other young girls. “I feel very passionate about using soccer as a tool to develop girls’ character, leadership, life skills, and values such as team work, respect, and solidarity,” she said.

Soccer not only affected her values growing up, but also had a deep impact on her mindset through college. Rodriguez emphasizes how her development during her time at Penn State was very much affected by her growth as an athlete. She is not “Rocky the soccer player” or “Rocky the student,” but rather an integrated mixture of both at all times. She credits Penn State with helping her to learn this balance, and hopes to relay this well-roundedness to other women in the future. “I don’t pretend to start something exactly like Penn State in Costa Rica,” she said, “But I do want to bring the passion and pride, the excellence in which things are done, and a similar structure of development for women soccer players.”

While her ultimate goal is clear, Rodriguez continues to consider exactly how she will carry out her vision. It remains uncertain whether the final product will be that of a program, an academy, or something completely distinct. “It is taking shape more and more as time passes by,” Rodriguez explained. “I continue to see more opportunities and learn from those opportunities every day.” Currently, she is working with acquaintances and teammates to collaborate with various marketers, media specialists, and athletes to turn her ideas into more concrete plans.

Rodriguez understands the difficulties ahead if she hopes to make her vision for Costa Rica, a third world country, a reality. She is not ignorant to the potential for resistance or complications as she begins to put her ideas into action. “It will take more than one day and one person to achieve this, but as long as we help prepare women soccer players to be excellent in whatever they choose to do after soccer, that doesn’t matter,” she said.

Rodriguez will play with Sky Blue FC for the 2016 NWSL season, which begins in April and ends in October. Following the season’s completion, she will resume her academics to work toward her B.S. in Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Management. Her return to her academics will include an internship in her major, which she hopes will help her to formulate plans for the program.

About the Author

Olivia DeBellis

Olivia DeBellis is a writer for Onward State. She is currently a freshman pursuing a double major in Food Science and Nutrition here in Happy Valley. She enjoys people watching, long runs with food at the finish, and binge watching HGTV. Follow her @OliviaADeBellis or send her an email at [email protected]

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