For Ivan Heredia, playing soccer was just a part of life.
Even before he was old enough to start school, his father would take him to the soccer fields, where his passion for the sport grew daily.
"In Mexico it's part of the culture. My dad used to play soccer and always took me to the fields, since I was 3 years old, and you kind of learn to play," said the 26-year-old Chattanooga Football Club soccer player.
After playing professionally and traveling across Latin America for several years, the El Paso, Texas, native decided education was more important than soccer and started to look for soccer scholarships to go to college.
He found one in Cleveland, Tenn.
He played soccer for Lee University three years, beginning in 2006, until he graduated with a bachelor's degree in business administration.
About that time, the Chattanooga Football Club started to take shape. Heredia and his younger brother, Aldo, made the team.
Since then he has started his own soccer league, primarily targeting the Hispanic community. There are 30 teams that play indoor and outdoor soccer, he said.
He also trains children ages 4 and 5 at no cost to help them learn the sport, Heredia said.
He is currently studying at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, working towards a master's degree in business management, but soccer is still a big part of his life.
Q: What do you like about soccer?
A: It's a discipline. You can take things you learn from soccer and apply them to your life. Going to practice every day is very good for the development of a child.
Q: What is one of your favorite moments while playing with the Chattanooga Football Club?
A: When we played against the Atlas [professional football club] of Mexico was a very special moment for me because I played with them in Mexico. Playing again, now against them, was very special.
Q: How would you describe the level of soccer in the area?
A: Soccer here is growing a lot. With the Chattanooga Football Club and bringing national teams to play, people are starting to know a lot more about soccer.
Q: You started a soccer league last year for the Hispanic community—why is that?
A: I was given an opportunity to play in college, and what I'm trying to do is give opportunities to good players. Whenever I see a good player, I contact the coaches I know so they can see them play.
Q: Why reach out to the Hispanic youth?
A: I like to share what I learned in soccer. I learned about soccer and the discipline [that comes with it] when I was a kid, and I think this is a good way to start. I teach them the basics so they can have fun in soccer.
• Age: 26.
• Education: Bachelor's degree from Lee University, working on an MBA at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
• Family: Parents, Cirilo and Martha Heredia, brother Aldo Heredia.
• Hometown: El Paso, Texas.
• Hobbies: Movies, playing soccer.
• Favorite food: Mexican enchiladas.
• Favorite soccer team: Barcelona.
• Favorite movie: "Goal."
Perla Trevizo joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 2007 and covers immigration/diversity issues and higher education. She holds a master’s degree in newswire journalism from Universidad Rey Juan Carlos in Madrid, Spain, and a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Texas. In 2011 she participated in the Bringing Home the World international reporting fellowship program sponsored by the International Center for Journalists, producing a series on Guatemalan immigrants for which she ...