Meet Isabella or "Bella" Castellanos Lopes—this month's Athlete of the Month. This dynamic soccer player is not only outstanding on the field but also off the field. Bella is a role model to her peers by offering support during their off days, helping teammates struggling to understand the game, and displaying the utmost respect for her coaches, opponents, and officials. Currently, this valedictorian student plays up with the U17 players for FC Berlin team, in Ontario, Canada, dominating the field as a left winger.
Bella sat down with TrueSport Ambassador and Paralympic triathlete Aaron Scheidies in late August to discuss how she shows perseverance and resilience in sport.
The Hurt is Temporary, but the End Game is Worth It
Aaron: You and I have a lot in common: I started playing soccer early up until high school when I started losing my vision. The endurance from soccer gave me a leg up on the competition in my future with endurance sports. How did you get into soccer?
Bella: I started when I was really little; I was two years old and have loved playing the sport ever since.
Aaron: What's your favorite position in soccer to play?
Bella: That's a great question Aaron, I am proud to say that with the support of my coaches Dan, Marco, and Giorgio that have seen my development and thrive, I have learnt to be a versatile player, but my favorite position is definitely winger or striker.
Aaron: Nice, so you want to be the goal scorer! Ha, what mantra do you tell yourself before a big game?
Bella: Do you know the saying, "The hurt is temporary in training, but the results are worth it."
Aaron: Yeah, I like that. One I like is "keep smiling through the pain, because it doesn't hurt as much if you smile.
Bella: Yeah, you have to distract yourself from it.
Showing Respect On and Off the Field
Aaron: Do you remember a time when you had to show respect on the field? Let's say a referee makes a bad call? How do you still show up, and show them respect and true sportsmanship in a situation like that?
Bella: Well, at the end of the day, it's just a game, right? We are all just here to play because we love the sport. It's important to remember that and it's just as important that we can all get along properly regardless of the outcomes.
Aaron: Nice—is there anything you do to motivate your teammates and keep them focused on the game?
Bella: Our team always encourages each other from beginning to end. We have a little rule when we're doing a cheer for everyone, where we put our left hands in because it's good luck.
Aaron: Why's it good luck?
Bella: Because it's closer to your heart.
Aaron: I like that. How do you show leadership if someone still feels down after a game despite all the cheers and encouragement?
Bella: If someone is feeling down or has had a bad game, I think it's important to pick them up and reassure them that mistakes can happen, and it will only get better from here. But not only that (if you want to be a leader), you need to continue encouraging them and helping them become better players.
Aaron: Obviously, sport in itself is very powerful, but sport also really changes a lot of people's lives outside of playing. How do you think sport has helped you become a better person?
Bella: Sport helps me get rid of stress. Every time I am playing I feel calm, especially if I have had a bad day. I know that when I go to practice, everything is just going to be better. I have found that throughout my life it helps me leave all the noise from the outside world out on the field.
Aaron:Is there anything that you do to help decrease the stress and nerves going into a game, be it listening to music, or reading, or any sort of things that you do to decrease stress and nerves or performance anxiety?
Bella: So, before a game I know when everybody gets stressed out, they like to relax, but for me it's the opposite. I like to hype myself up, and I'm like, 'we got this, we can do this!' I also like to play hype music in the car. By the time I warm up and I start playing I am way less nervous.
Aaron: Yeah, once you're in the game it just flows naturally, but it's the thoughts before that create anxiety of what could happen or what will happen.
Bella: Yeah, so even going for a run or getting your heart rate up a little before a game can help eliminate those nerves and thoughts.
Aaron: Last question, I swear. I know you have a little brother. How do you think you playing soccer has had an impact on him? Have you ever competed against each other or learned from one another?
Bella: I hope I've had an impact on him. We like to go to the park sometimes and take shots on each other. I really hope that I can inspire him to do well in sports, and I try to encourage him always to do better. I would always love him to do better than me.
Aaron: What advice would you give other athletes who want to play a team sport?
Bella: Be versatile. I have learned to play many other positions and it has helped a lot. Being a versatile player shows that you are able to adapt to transitions and tactical adjustments, granting your team a competitive advantage over more rigid opponents. I have been told my presence alone forces opposing teams to constantly recalibrate their strategies, as marking a versatile player becomes an exercise in futility.
"Passion for the game fuels my love and commitment to continue to improve. I eat soccer, sleep soccer, breathe soccer. I am not mad; I am just passionate." - Bella Castellanos (her take on the famous, Thierry Henry quote)
The Castellanos Family is a high-performing sports family with Bella's grandparents being national swimmers, her mother being a scholar swimmer, and her cousin Nick Castellanos, a Phillies Baseball Player. Dedication to sport runs deep in this family's genes.
Bella's team, FC Berlin, won the Ontario Cup and advanced to the Canadian Soccer Nationals in Moncton, New Brunswick from October 3-9th. She's inviting all to watch. Bella continues to be a driving force behind the team, from her hat tricks to her work ethic. She plays a pivotal role in their success, and continues to work to be a better player and person than yesterday. Bella has dreams of playing for a national soccer team and attending U.S. Law School.
Speed Round 'This' or 'That' with Bella
(Answers are in bold)
- Watch a movie or go to a movie
- Send a text or make a phone call
- Hit a home run or scoring a goal from midfield? (Editor's note: Bella's cousin, Nick Castellanos, plays for the Phillies, so this question was challenging.)
- Learn a lesson or teach a lesson
- Run laps or do shooting drills?
- Play sports outdoors or indoors?
Favorite sports team?
- Kansas City Chiefs, Canadian Women's National, or Portuguese National Team