PHOTO COURTESY BILL ALKOFER
Not unlike most young children in Orange County, Natalie Tinkler began playing soccer through AYSO at the age of four.
“I tried softball and t-ball, but I was not good at that,” says Tinkler. “So my parents had me play soccer, because all little kids play soccer. I fell in love with it. The competition and being on the team… I was just having a good time.”
The Rosary Academy senior plays defender for the Royals and enjoys being in the role of backing up her team when they need her. Playing soccer alongside her classmates brings a unique level of camaraderie that adds to her love for the game.
“At Rosary…you’re playing with a family that is more than just your team,” says Tinkler. “There is so much more bonding with friends who are family.”
The rush that comes with being competitive is a large part of what Tinkler looks forward to in each match. As a captain, the 17-year-old is a motivator and encourager, and she aims to keep her teammates working together as a unit towards the common goal of a CIF championship.
“Natalie is an absolute warrior,” says Rosary soccer head coach, Sean Melendez. “She is as tough as they come. She loves her teammates and would do anything for them. Natalie leads by example, and she is a great example of Rosary on and off the field.”
Over her years competing, Tinkler has struggled with nerves while she plays, but working with her coaches and the supportive environment at Rosary has been influential in helping her build more confidence.
“I think soccer has helped me be more tenacious in my work, and to never give up and keep fighting,” says Tinkler. “You’re going to hit bumps in the road in your life…but you have to get up and keep moving forward.”
Outside of athletics, Tinkler serves as a volunteer at St. Jude Medical Center in their PACU department. Additionally, she enjoys being a part of Rosary’s Campus Ministry, where she is integral in the behind-the-scenes aspects of the school’s mass. The intersection of faith and sports allows for the team to support each other in all areas of student life.
“Faith can help calm you down when you get into those intense moments,” says Tinkler. “Within the team, the faith that you share together…can be used to help each other. Overall, it helps the team because if one of us is playing better, we all play better.”
The La Habra resident hopes to continue playing soccer in college and has future plans to become an OBGYN. She draws inspiration from her older sister, Cassandra, as well as Melendez and the coaching staff.
“They’re my role models because they never give up on me,” says Tinkler. “They never give up on the team. It helps me and reminds me that I have to believe too.”