Interview with Rayadas de Monterrey Midfielder Juana Plata: Her Experience as a Rookie

This past May, The Rayadas de Monterrey, a renowned soccer team of the Liga BBVA MX Femenil, won the championship for the third time in their division at their home stadium in Guadalupe, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. The Monterrey team played against America Femenil, defeating them by a score of four to three. 

Although this is the Rayadas third year winning a Clausura championship, for midfielder #16, Juana Plata, it is her first year on the team and first time experiencing a championship.

The 24-year-old from Houston, Texas, has been involved in this sport for 12 years now. “It all started for my 12th birthday. I asked my dad to put me on a soccer team and buy me my cleats,” Ms. Plata shared with me. 

Not only does she play with the Rayadas, but she also currently plays as a defender with the El Salvador Women’s National Soccer Team. Previous to playing with these acclaimed teams, she played college soccer as a defender from 2018 to 2021 at Lamar University where she graduated with a double major in Marketing and Finance. Subsequently, Plata continued her education and soccer pursuits at Texas State University where she also played as a defender in 2022 and earned her Masters in Business Administration. 

Ms. Plata was noble enough to open up about her experience during her first season as a Rayadas player. As she shared her insights, I was reminded that, although humans go through different experiences, the similar thoughts and emotions we go through during momentous life events are how we relate to one another.

Due to an injury, Plata was not able to play in the final, “I had a hamstring thing going on. I hurt it pretty bad last year, it’s just a lingering thing. It comes and goes and right before the final, I was doing a lot. Training maybe two or three times a day. My hamstring was just not strong enough to take all the trainings.” 

Undeniably so, her inability to play in the final impacted the way she viewed this victory. As the competitive player, she is accustomed to being a starting player and getting a full 90 minutes in the game, so she felt a bit undeserving of the win. “It was something that kind of discouraged me at some moments. There was a lot of, ‘Congrats, campeona!’ I think the people around me were more excited about it than I was,” she revealed. However, after taking some time to soak it all in, a key takeaway she said this experience gave her was to be patient with herself. 

“It’s my first season and things didn’t go exactly how I wanted them to go. But, I have to remind myself that I’m literally playing alongside some of the best athletes in the world and it’s not the end of the world, you know, like, I’m a champion. It was one of those where I was like, ‘Okay, you need to be patient. Work hard and control the controllables.’ So I would say that’s probably the big phrase of the season. Control the controllables.”

Not only has some self-reflection helped her adjust her perspective on her experience, but the reassurance from her supportive coaches has also been instrumental in this adjustment. “I’m happy to have reassuring coaches and teammates who tell me, ‘Even if you weren’t able to play, this is still 100% your win, this is still your championship.’ Everyone was just super happy. It’s something that a lot of people don’t experience. A lot of people can go their whole lives without winning anything this big and for me to win in my first season was really, real. It’s just the beginning.”

It is safe to say Plata is part of an uplifting team. In addition to her supportive coaches, the Rayadas team also takes on other efforts that prioritize their female players. In March 2023, the Rayadas organized their first “M en la Vida y en la Cancha” event. This event, held on International Women’s Month, provides women from different industries with a platform to voice their concerns and share experiences related to work, education, and family life. The cause behind this event is to improve the distinct aspects of life for women in Mexico.  

“As players, it’s not something we necessarily participate in, but we have to attend. They have panels with three to four speakers, they pick topics to speak on and share their advice and experiences. At first, a lot of the girls were like, ‘Eh, I don’t want to go’. I was kind of the same, we were just so tired from being in training that morning. But I thought, ‘You know what? It’s something the club’s holding for us, it might be important. After the first panel, I was so intrigued and invested in what they were saying. And I think the girls who stayed until the end had the same response. They actually care about our team. They invest in our team. And it shows because we had the best infrastructure in Mexico on both the women’s and men’s side. I think that’s definitely why we’ve been able to perform as well as we have. The event is really nice. It’s nice seeing the local girls, moms, and even dads attend the event.”

As she shared more, I was surprised to learn of the seemingly inconsequence Mexico places on lower-ranked women’s soccer teams. According to Plata, when comparing cultural differences between playing soccer in the United States and Mexico, she told me there wasn’t anything major she’s had to adapt to. “I grew up around my Mexican side a little more. So there’s not much of a difference there.” She also recognized how fortunate she is to be on a team that cares about the women’s side of soccer. “Here in the US, they do prioritize women’s football and it’s growth. That’s something that you don’t see as often in women’s sports and in Mexico. I think I’ve just been really fortunate to go to a team that cares about the women’s side.” 

However, she can’t say the same for other teams, acknowledging the differences in treatment amongst the various Liga MX Femenil teams. “I heard that if they didn’t have to have a woman’s side, they wouldn’t, they would try getting rid of the women’s team overall. There are definitely disparities, but luckily I haven’t experienced that.” 

Staying on the topic of women, when I asked her about her experience working in a team made of 23 other women from different backgrounds she described it as interesting, explaining the diversity amongst her teammates. 

“I think we have one of the oldest teams in League, so a lot of them are extremely experienced within the sport and in life. We have moms, soon-to-be moms, people who have been at the club for years, people who are just starting off, like me, people from Europe, people from Africa. It’s just interesting to see when we all come together. There are a lot of different characters on the team, but at the end of the day, we’re there for the same purpose. There’s no kind of tension within the group, which is pretty common in sports teams. Ours is very united, also another reason why I think we perform so well.” 

As for the role Plata fulfills as a Rayada, she’d be categorized as a positive and happy teammate. “I’ve been described as very positive. I’m one of those people who if I’m having a bad day, you wouldn’t know. I’ve been known as always bringing up good energy, and always being happy, on and off the field. That’s probably my biggest trait.”

While living in Monterrey, famously known as “la Cuidad de las Montañas” Ms. Plata has taken advantage of her local geographical features. Aside from soccer training and games, she enjoys going on hikes. “It’s something easily accessible and close by. When I do have time and energy going on different hikes, is one of the top things I like to do. That couldn’t happen in Texas and maybe in other parts of Mexico where they don’t have as many mountains.” When taking a break from being physically active she winds down by trying new food, coffee shops, and reading. “By the time you’re done with training and everything you’re just so tired,” she admitted. 

With her lived experience now, Plata shared the advice she would have given herself at the start of the season. “Pray more and stay grounded.” 

A bit of soul-searching made her realize that, at times, she forgets how blessed she is and forgets to live in the moment. “I should be praying in general, to thank the Lord for all the good things I already have. Not just to ask for more. I feel like it’s pretty common to want more and not be as grateful for what you do have. Personally, I do take advantage of and take for granted what I have.” 

Ms. Plata’s rookie experience is just one example of how, as humans, we tend to be hardest on ourselves. Inevitably, we all have insecurities. However, it only takes a bit of a positive mind change to bring us back to the present and recognize how far we’ve come all on our own unique journey. 

To check out the Rayadas calendar, click here.


  • Bianca Mendoza

    Bianca Mendoza, a Volunteer Writer at Latinitas Magazine, first became part of Latinitas as a Social Media Volunteer. She discovered Latinitas after attending one of their workshops where she got a feel for the organization. She was immediately drawn to the cheery and optimistic energy displayed by its team members. Her interest in women’s empowerment, writing, and education combined with the Latinitas’ Magazine mission inspired her pursuit as a Volunteer Writer for the magazine. She graduated from the University of Houston-Downtown with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Studies. Her curious spirit is what motivates her to share inspirational and empowering stories.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *